The Rices Stand In Line At The Vatican Museums and Fight Off a Line-Jumper with AwesomenessPosted: June 18, 2012
oh my goodness, guys. I’ve got such a story for you. It’s empowering, and full of drama and daring-do and ultimately either triumphant or super frustrating. (Hint: it’s triumphant. And AWESOME.)
So, to set the scene: we are in Rome, in June, which means that it is freakishly hot and muggy and about 70% of the people you see are tourists, and 25% are people working with, selling to, stealing from, and otherwise engaged with the tourists. The other 5% are very annoyed with the other two groups, who are probably also annoyed with each other. There are lines everywhere. There are massive tour groups, radio headphones in, following their leaders, who hold up some object (a scarf, umbrella, etc) in the air, dragging their masses of people behind them, through other masses of people. All this to line up some more. In the broiling sun. In the heat. In Rome. In June.
So, the Rice Band of Six Intrepid Travelers were firmly planted in the line to get into the Vatican Museum, home of the Sistine Chapel, among other things. The line was in the full sun, in between a wall and a fence. The line had easily 150 people in front of us, 100 behind. It was 2.30 in the afternoon, and we’d already traipsed all over the Forum and Palatine Hill that morning. We were tired and not going to put up with any funny business.
All of a sudden, through the packed line of people behind us, a guy started pushing through. “Excuse me. Scuzzi. Excuse me. I need to get through.” He was quite urgent, and when we didn’t let him through very easily, and seemed a little skeptical about his right to shove through while the rest of us waited, he escalated the intensity a bit, “ I work here. I need to get through!” and shoved past us. We let him through grudgingly and he shoved ahead, but then we saw that he had no uniform, no badge, nothing. He might have been a pickpocket, creating a distraction and brushing up against people, or he might have been a running-behind tour guide. Nevertheless, there was a separate line for tours, and he had no right to shove through.
So, of course, THEN we thought of lots of come-backs and witty remarks we could have said to him, things we could have done, ways we could have stood our ground. Isn’t that always the way it is in these kind of interactions? Grr.
If the story ended there, it would just be one of life’s frustrating episodes.
But it doesn’t.
Miffed by that encounter, the Rice Band of Six Intrepid Travelers formed a blockade in our part of the line, standing shoulder to shoulder from the wall to the fence. Some minutes passed, everyone baking in the sun, the line of hundreds of people slowly shuffling forward together.
From behind, again, we heard “Excuse me. I need to get through. Excuse me. Watch out.” We all braced ourselves, shoulder to shoulder, with my arm against the far railing. Soon the middle aged woman, who had perfected the stressed, authoritative, in a hurry voice and manner had reached us, after bullying past other annoyed people. She had reached us, and we weren’t going to move, as she was about to find out. (Can you feel the tension building? It was for us.)
“I need to get through.” She huffs.
“Why?” Mom asks, turning her head, but not unwedging her shoulders.
“I am a group guide. I need to get through!” she huffs again, and tries to physically push between mom and I. we don’t let her through.
“Let me through! I will call security!”
This is escalating quickly.
“Go ahead and call security,” mom says. “there is a separate line for groups, right over there. I think everyone would agree with me,” at this point she gestures to the other people who are quickly tuning in to this escalating situation, [Note: my mom is so clever, to go for the group solidarity.] “that we are all waiting here, and you can wait, too.”
“You don’t understand. I need to get through here!” she continues, and tries to push past again. “Please move your arm from that fence or I will call security!”
She tries a bit more blustering threats, and tries to push past again. We are unmoved, physically and metaphorically. It has actually gotten to that point, a test of wills and physical locations. This is intense.
“Where are you from?” she asks accusingly.
“why does it matter?” mom responds calmly.
“just curiousity,” the woman responds unconvincingly.
“well, we’re in line here, and that’s all that matters. Curiosity solved.” My mom is tough.
The woman turns to the people behind us who’ve been following this whole exchange, because what else is there to do in line, and also it’s really intense. She starts speaking to them in Spanish, complaining about us, and ends with, “No entienden nada. No entienden.” [They don’t understand anything. They don’t understand.]
Rising to the occasion, to defend my family’s honor, I turn back to her, just like you always imagine doing, and I retorted, “Si, entendemos todo. !Todos nosotros estamos esperando aqui en la linea!” [Yes, we understand everything. All of us are waiting here in the line!] and I turn back around. She gives it one last shot, trying to push past me again, but I don’t budge, and say firmly, “No me empuje. Por favor no me empuje.” [Don’t push me. Please don’t push me. (I didn’t say it with entirely correct grammar. Oh well, she got the message.)]
And, conceding defeat in the face of the Rice moral and physical fortitude and linguistic ability, she slunk away. And no one else tried to jump past us in the line again.
BAM. Guys, isn’t it just everything you always play back in your head and wish you’d done after an encounter where someone takes advantage of you, or thinks you’re stupid?
1. We didn’t let her shove by us and everyone else who was waiting in the sweltering sun, even when it was awkward and escalating and high-stakes not to give in. 2. I retorted to someone in Spanish who was assuming that we were stupid Americans who couldn’t understand them. 3. We stood for justice and not jumping in lines when everyone else has to wait, so you should, too.
We are awesome.