Friday, January 9, 2009

Damsel in Distress, 13 May 2007

While I was abroad in Florence my junior year of college, I kept a simple blog to keep my friends and family updated on my life. I'm going to repost a story I wrote there, about a year and a half ago.

I've been planning to regale you with the (comparatively) glamorous tale of spending last weekend at a beach resort on Elba as soon as I got the pictures uploaded, but for the moment you'll have to settle for the decidedly un-glamorous story of how I got myself rescued by firemen. That's right, pompieri to the rescue.

The morning didn't start out particularly well. I woke up to find the hallway full of more ants than I like to see anywhere but Christmas Eve (get it? ants=aunts? tee hee). I killed them with a vengeance (hope the uncles weren't upset!), and felt remotely like I was committing genocide. The poor things had no chance against me and my heavy shoes and my Windex bottle of death. Then I swept the floors, and then put my purse by the door so that I could mop myself into the front corner, grab my bag, and go grocery shopping (and ant-trap buying) while the floors dried. My plan was so clever! No sitting in my room waiting for the floors to dry so I could move again! No smudging the clean floors as I tip-toed out in my dirty shoes! Fool-proof!


I had no sooner closed the door than I'd realized that my keys were inside. Locked inside. Of the apartment where I now live alone, my last remaining roommate having moved out just two days ago. Of the apartment whose owner doesn't actually live in Florence - or anywhere near it, as far as I can tell. Interesting situation I find myself in, no?

What the hell to do?

1. Call the landlady. I could, but it's Mother's Day, and I don't actually expect or want her to drop everything and come let me in. In any case, if she lives as far away as I imagine she does, it really wouldn't be practical or feasible to do that, anyway.

2. Pick the lock? I don't know how, as useful as it would be in both licit and illicit circumstances. A summer project, perhaps.

3. Call the head of our program? Again, it's Mother's Day - and her mother's in the hospital. Very much a last resort.

4. Break the door? Almost tried it - there's a loose panel - but didn't know how the hell I'd fix it once I was done.

5. Try to jump onto the balcony from a neighboring building? Ah, now there's a plan! A much better plan than numbers 1-4. Three buildings butt up against ours on that side, and it appears that there would be rather precarious balcony access from each of them. Yeah, so I'm wearing a skirt, but so what? So I spend quite a bit of time trying to identify which windows in which buildings would be good windows to try, then stalking the doorways of those buildings to try to talk to the residents while working up the courage to ring doorbells and use my weak Italian to explain a complicated situation and ask a big favor from a stranger. Oh yeah, that's the best plan. Suuure. And then, surprise! Someone finally comes out of one of the apartment buildings in question. And she lives in the apartment in question. And she's a little old lady - and a big bitch. She seems pissed that I'd even ask her, she's too busy to help, and besides, "sarebbe troppo pericoloso." "It would be too dangerous." So? (Okay, so now that I've looked at the balcony, hers in the window that would be a fifteen foot jump over a three-story drop...but come on now, little old lady, you can't be a little pleasant?)

So I give up on the balcony-jumping option, too, and I go eat a panini and a pastry at the only café open on a Sunday afternoon, and then I go downtown. Not because being downtown will be at all productive, or help me solve my problem, but because I'm stressed, and in centro I can buy gelato and Twix bars. That occupies most of my afternoon, with the addition of buying an obscenely overpriced English-language chick-lit book to read while I'm sitting outside my building contemplating whether I'll be spending the night on a park bench.

After having thus passed the entire day, I came to the startling realization that I wasn't getting myself out of this mess. Nope, someone was going to have to help me. So I called both of my last resorts, the landlady and the program director. No response from the landlady, but the program director tells me to call the firemen, who will open the door for anyone, free of charge. It's something of a process on the phone - he doesn't understand me, I don't understand him, and he mentions that there's not really much he can do, since I don't have any document stating that I live there. But the firemen come anyway, a whole group of five or six of them, and a neighbor I've never met before comes out of his apartment to tell me that they were downstairs (because at some point during our garbled conversation, either I mispronounced something or he misheard something, and so their calls didn't go through), and they opened the door in about 2.5 seconds. And then asked for proof of residence. Uh, right. Eventually, they accepted my passport and a handful of handwritten applications, receipts, etc. which listed my address. And when they left, after saving the day, I realized that my clean floor (remember how this whole mess started?) was all smudged with the dust of firemen boots.

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