We have been on the road for four months now, and other than crazy driving adventures and the run in with the Czech police, our travels have been pretty un-eventful. We have seen some pretty spectacular countries and sights, sure - but no real ‘Lisa’ stories that would embarrass me for years to come. I’m sure you have heard some of them like, serving raw strawberry pie to my in-laws, burning my hair before the Christmas dance - with peek-a-boo heals and nylons that would fit a giraffe, or the time I made a million batches of tea-biscuits for a retirement party at school, only to realize they 'may have contained nuts' – you know those kind of ‘Lisa’ stories. Everything had been going pretty much as planned on our trip….until this morning, that was!
Yesterday, we reluctantly packed up the CRV, said goodbye to Sarah and Fabio, and the beautiful Tuscan countryside, and headed for Rome. I am always a little apprehensive on travel days. We have stayed in some beautiful spots and I am waiting to arrive in a not-so-beautiful one, it will come I’m sure, but not in Rome. We arrived at our cozy little trailer in a gated community, greeted by our lovely hosts, two baby Saint Bernard’s, and a delicious Italian lunch, what a treat! We got settled and headed to the grocery store. Again, nothing too eventful, except for the fact that we noticed the parmesan cheese and coffee had security tags. Similar to the exploding ink thingies attached to the clothing at home. We thought that was kind of weird. Both items were only about 11 euro, so why such high security?
High security seems to be the way of life here in Italy. Everyone has gates, dogs (usually big, loud, and more than one) and stone fences around their property. Even our trailer sits on the corner of a lot, which has a locked metal gate. You need to use the key to enter the property and to exit. The windows and doors also have metal bars, decorative ones, but still bars. After seeing the security tags in the grocery store and reading some notes from our hosts (to watch our pockets and not to venture into some areas at night), we were starting to realize we would have to be a little extra cautious, while in Rome. We were prepared for that. We knew this trip would take us to places where we would need to be more aware.
Having taken all of this into account, we still felt quite safe in our neighbourhood, and this morning we all ventured out for a run. It was spitting rain slightly when we left, but nothing we couldn’t handle. It was fairly warm, and since we were not venturing into the city today, we needed to get some form of exercise. After a half hour, we circled back to drop the girls off while Mark and I continued on. The roads were quite something, lined with large trees and huge country homes. We passed the horses grazing in the fields, the heard of sheep munching away on the fresh grass, and woke up every dog there was in the neighbourhood.
About fifteen minutes from home, I realized I had to go to the bathroom. Now for me this usually means trouble. There is nothing like a good run to get things moving, if you know what I mean. I had been in this situation before, and it usually didn’t end well. Mark knew the signs right away, he picked up the pace and headed back to get the car, to pick me up. I figured with Mark’s quickened pace, I should be back at the trailer in about 11 minutes. I could hold it for 11 minutes, surely. I continued to walk on slowly. After what seemed like eternity, I checked my watch, still six more minutes.
“I can do this, walk slowly, breath deeply, he will be here shortly.”
I turned down the road towards our place, and continued walking…still no Mark. I had heard a car alarm in the distance, maybe he had trouble with the CRV. He should be here by now. As I walked further, I started to think that my surroundings were not familiar. Surely, I would have noticed this ornately decorated gate. My heart started beating a little faster as I realized I was on the wrong road. The rain also decided to pick up and was now a full-fledged down pour. How long had I been walking down this road? I checked my watch, it read 0. I hadn’t reset it after the last 10 minute increment. It couldn’t be that long, could it? Oh boy, I really had to go to the bathroom now. Where was Mark and where was I? I didn’t even know the address of where we were staying. Our hosts had lead us to the trailer from the train station by car, in the dark, as the road was not marked on the GPS. I didn’t even know the last names of our hosts. As I tried to quicken my pace to the main road where I had turned off, a man in a jeep passed me. I could see the brake lights through the pouring down rain, then the reverse lights. As the car wheeled back beside me he asked, in Italian, if he could give me a ride. Sure, I thought to myself - if I knew where the heck I was going!
Before you continue reading, I must let you know that I was raised with caution, not to accept rides from strangers, especially in foreign countries. But all of your brain cells stop working, after you have been trying to hold off going to the bathroom in your running tights, for well over 20 minutes, in the pouring down rain. I hopped into the jeep and told the fellow that I was lost (what was I thinking?) Then I asked if there was another road that looked like this one near by. He told me that all of the roads looked similar, but in a matter of minutes I was safely back at the gates to our trailer. No harm done, right? Except for the fact that Mark was still out looking for me, and the slight problem with the key mentioned previously. You know the key that you need to get through the gate, both IN and OUT! The key that Mark had! I couldn’t believe my luck, I could see the bathroom a few feet away, but could not reach it. It started to thunder. Mark would be wondering what had happened to me. Surely he would know that I had made a wrong turn, he’s been married to me for seventeen years already! I wondered how long he would continue looking for me. He was a patient man, I could be standing outside the gate with my legs crossed for another twenty minutes, easy.
The girls explained that Mark had already been back twice by this point and was out combing the neighbourhood again. We started to run through options as I was doubled over in pain, outside the gate. Did Dad take his cell phone? No. Was there a ladder in the shed that I could use to climb over the gate? No.
“Mom, are you OK?”
“Yes, I’m fine honey, (Oh my GAWWWWD…I'm totally NOT fine!) I just have to go to the bathroom, very badly” – breath, breath, breath. I hadn’t breathed like that since labour and delivery…please Mark, come back soon, please…
The time ticked past slowly as I practiced everything I could remember from Lamaze class. I tried to distract myself by having a snack of fresh berries from the tree, as the girls kept calling over the gate to me. Probably not the best thing to do while I was waiting, but I had to keep busy.
“Mom, we are making you a hot chocolate to warm you up, do you want a sweater?”
No, I want a toilet, a port-a-potty, an outhouse, ANYTHING, I thought to myself. “No girls, (breath breath breath), I’m OK, (panting as my face turned blue), Dad will be here soon (where on earth was Mark!) thanks, though...”
Finally I saw the CRV in the distance, Halleluiah, Mark was back. I didn’t have any time to guage his mood or to apologize, as I raced through the gate into the bathroom. Mark listened to me through the bathroom door as I explained what had happened. He had gone back to where he left me, circled around, headed back to the trailer once already, couldn’t find me and headed back out looking for me. He wondered if I had been picked up, I had certainly scared him. He even started to check out port–a–potties in the area!
“What…? There was a port-a-potty out there? You are kidding me… right?”
He grabbed the camera to try and capture the weather; it had started to hail. Thank goodness I was in the shower and not still wandering the streets of Rome!
“Really…there was a port-a-potty a half a block from where you left me, and I ran right past it?”