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.
This picture was taken early in December, in Scotland. It was 2.30 in the afternoon.
oh my goodness am I glad it no longer gets dark that early anymore. I think it would kill me.
Now the sun doesn’t set until 8.30!!! It is glorious.
And it rises at 5.30 am! So that means, on sunny days, when I get up at 6 am, it actually feels like daytime. I am so glad.
My hostel in Tallinn was called “Bunstell” because of Bunski/Sir Nomsalot/whatever he was being called that particular day. The hostel was basically an apartment converted into a 12 bed hostel, and having a pet bunny who lived in a corner only added to the feel that we were all just folks living in an apartment together, rather than a strictly divided Staff/Owner and Guests.
He was great. And adorable.
Sometimes in the evenings he would get super hyper and start dashing around the apartment, skidding around corners like a dog whose nails can’t get a grip on the wooden floor. t was HILARIOUS.
and, because he was always zippin’ around, it was super hard to get a good picture of him. most of them ended up like this:
Do you want to know what happens sometimes?
Sometimes you’re on a wander through Tallinn on a sunny day, and you come across an abandoned, falling down old warehouse. And you walk past it at first. But 20 feet further on, you stop. And you say to yourself, “Why not? Do it!” And so you go back, and, checking to be sure no one is watching, you duck into the building.
And you feel kind of nervous the whole time you’re in there, and decide not to climb up a bit, even thought it is very tempting, because you are not entirely foolhardy.
And then you duck back out and continue on your wander.
And it is awesome.
That is what happens sometimes.
When I was in Tallinn, I went to about the most kitschy, touristy place I’ve been so far.
It’s a restaurant at the bottom of the old town hall in the main square. It advertises “worthy elk stew, full of flavor experience”, and its servers are women in middle ages costumes. It’s dark and lit by candlelight. The veilings are low and rough-hewn beams jut out. It’s got Estonian folks music playing. The mugs and bowls are rough ceramics. Classic tourist bait.
And I loved it! It totally charmed me.
It was in part because of the warmth, in part because of the prices (each food item only started at 1 euro!), but mostly because of the woman working behind the counter. She was so engaging and joke-y. (“the minimum you have to pay for your order is 6 euro, but 7 or 8 seems better to me… yeah, definitely 8 or 9. Maybe 10?” or “Did you bring your own spoon there in your backpack, or do I have to loan you one of our precious, deluxe spoons? Don’t you try to steal it!”) Maybe she was just putting on a show, but I don’t think so. I think she just loved joking with people, whether it was her coworkers or tourists. And my elk stew and cabbage pastry and foxberry juice were really good!
I just really liked that place a whole lot.
If you are ever in Tallinn (as I’m sure lots of you will be at some point in your life), go there! It’s in the main square “Raejoka Plats” (which I think just means “main square,” since it was called that in Tartu also), at the bottom of the big Town Hall.
See?? These were in the British Museum. Which is the fanciest loot-cave for robbers that I’ve ever seen…
(as are most museums, to be fair.)
Picnic-ing with Kirsty!
(you’re famous! again! some more!)
Guys, the cable-things on the Tower Bridge are BLUE. That is crazy to me. They are BLUE. All the time. I really didn’t expect that.
(Kirsty: “….Karen, that’s the strangest reaction to the Tower Bridge that I have ever heard.” )
(Kirsty [five minutes later]: “You know, it is really strange that it’s blue. Why would they do that? That makes no sense.”)
I know, you may be asking yourself, “Why would Karen need to do Science?” and the answer is: there are some questions which can only be answered through empirical testing.
one such question:
How thick/strong is the ice at the edge of this frozen pond by the Presidential Palace in Tallinn?
This is clearly a question that can only be answered through experimentation.
I am not a total idiot. I did not jump onto the ice or anything.
I just pushed on it with one of my feet, as I sat on the edge of the pond. That’s way different.
The answer to the question How strong is the ice? is Not very.
Can Karen react quickly enough to pull her foot up before it gets soaked in ice cold water?
Experimental testing indicates…