Being cheap has backfired on me a couple of times when my family has left me to deal with all of their luggage. The worst experience came after a fateful night in the Children’s Hospital in Florence, Italy. I wasn’t the one that was ill, but rather it was my youngest daughter who, in spite of my suggestions to drink more water, became dehydrated from the Mediterranean heat and sun. The heat had a disastrous effect on her digestive system, which at the time was swollen with cheap tourist pizza. The more she ate, the less she digested. The situation came to a head the evening before we were scheduled to catch a train to Rome. She complained of sharp, agonizing stomach cramps and she needed a doctor. Because no one at the hotel spoke English, we set out in search of a taxi to take us to a hospital. I carried her for two blocks on my back until we could flag down a driver who understood our problem and took us to the children’s hospital of Florence. Unsure of what the problem was, the doctors held her for observations in a room with five screaming bambini. In the meantime, my eldest daughter and I returned to the hotel to pack up our belongings.
The following morning I headed to the train station to see if we could catch a later train, then back to the hotel to tell my daughter to make do the best she could while I went to the hospital to see about her sister. When I arrived the English-speaking nurse—an angel if there ever was one—explained that my daughter’s digestive system had shut down due to the lack of water. The pizza, which was delicious, had turned into a cement paste that solidified over the past several days. The only way to remove the obstruction was by warm-soapy water cleansing, after that we would be home free. In rudimentary English she explained the process to my little girl, who responded, “You’re gunna stick a tube up my butt?”
Within the hour we were back on our way to the hotel to pick up the luggage and head to the railway station. If there is one thing about Europe that beefy Americans should keep in mind it is that the cars are smaller. Generally, Europeans don’t feel the need to drive massive SUVs with 50mm cannons mounted on the top. They prefer cars that are small and quick. Moreover, their public transportation system is much better than ours, and the people walk more. This is probably why it is difficult for the average American to find clothes in France and Italy. Naturally, the only taxi available fit four people comfortably without luggage. We told the driver to wait while I dragged the luggage down two flights of stairs to the car. My other daughter, who had since began to panic and weep hysterically, helped me carry the bags to the car and cram them in. When I was single, everything I owned could fit into one duffle bag, but now married with kids, things had changed. It looked like we were on safari and in desperate need of porters.
Cross-posted at My Ongoing Struggle with Misanthropy: http://jimmygabacho.com/?p=593