Wednesday, January 09, 2008

"Are you the Texans?" the German couple asked, and we weren't, so I said "Of course not." The Texans, who had shoved ahead of us just a moment before, turned around. "We're the Texans," one boomed, and all that was settled, and we waited for 15 minutes more before "the Greeks" arrived to join the reserved tour group.

So it was odd that she introduced herself as "Greek" to the tourguide and then announced in North American (midwest?) accented English "We're Greek." Her husband smiled dumbly.

The Greeks, as they proudly became known to all (I was, inexplicably, 'the girl'), insisted that we wait for their friends who had not yet arrived at the steps across from the Vatican. If they did, they would have been "the Other Greeks," and we would have resented them in person for making us wait so long. Instead they remained abstract, figures for our animosity.

We waited in the unusual cold, and I remarked to no one that while perhaps the Greeks had paid the tourguide to wait, we had paid for a tour.

Finally we went, starting our tour of the museums, the Chapel and St. Peter's quite late, guaranteeing a later start than we had hoped for our second attempt at Ancient Rome. It became the second (not so) funny thing to happen on the way to the forum.

The Vatican tour is difficult, and my feelings were very conflicted. Dr. Bloom, raised Catholic but turned Episcopal, found confirmation of the early church's political, economic and military machinations. Our tour guide is a devout Catholic, but nevertheless spoke of papal megalomania and the cult of the Virgin. Yet she also teared when she spoke of St.Peter, and the emotion was contagious.

Equally difficult was keeping a diverse group of tourists touring the fourteen miles of textiles, painting, and marble together for the highlights.

The Greeks were always behind, leading our tourguide to ask through our headsets "Where are the Greeks?" and "Has anyone seen the Greeks?" endlessly. But we were all together for a restroom break just before we entered the Sistene Chapel.

They were arguing -- our guide and the Greek wife. The latter insisted that the former should have held the tour for her friends. The former insisted that we had held it long enough (and we had). I was paying attention to this exchange, and not to my headset, which was clipped to my coat. I took my coat off to hang it on the door, and my headset shot into the toilet.

At first I thought it was my camera lens, and I panicked. I was a bit relieved when I saw that it was only the headset.

But then I realized that I had to get it out.

Once I fished it out, I figured I ought to wash it -- it had already been submerged, washing surely wouldn't hurt. I used the hottest water possible, patted it dry, and walked out of the restroom.

"The girl is here. Finally we can go." The Greek wife rolled her eyes. Someone else had been late, and it perturbed her.

You can't speak in the Chapel, though our tourguide had promised to whisper into the headsets. So . . . I . . . put mine on to pretend, not to make a scene. But I winced. "What is _wrong_ with you?" Dr. Bloom asked. I mouthed and pantomimed: I dropped my headset in the toilet.

I was wearing it.

Dr. Bloom gagged. My headset hissed and popped, and I pretended I could hear, through the Chapel, through the Basilica. Thumbs up -- gorgeous work, Michelangelo. Fantastic floor there in the Basilica. Great place, great tour, swish, hiss, pop.


susan said...

And what a story that will make over the years!

dawn said...

I'm off to do errands with a laugh! Thanks!

Nicki Mann said...

ROFL! Oh, that sucks...

erin said...

Hee, hee. Great story, and well-told! I felt like I was there, simultaneously annoyed at "the Greeks", amazed by the beauty, and struck by the surreality of it all. Hope you're eating well!

Anonymous said...

hah hah-- don't feel bad- I dropped my phone one time in a toilet while on a business trip-- it snap and popped too!!
Thanks for the laugh