Friday, December 2, 2011
Driving in Florence… Kill Me… Please Kill Me…
I woke up with the nightmare still freshly imprinted on my brain: I was driving, in heavy traffic, a car in which I couldn’t control the steering. Oh, I was yanking and turning the wheel, but the car wouldn’t do what I wanted, until finally we smashed into an oncoming vehicle.
My wife Anita and I had a quick breakfast, grabbed our suitcases and tromped the dozen or so blocks down to where we’d arranged to pick up our rent-a-car. To say I wasn’t feeling great about getting behind the wheel would be an understatement.
I hadn’t even gotten comfortable walking around in Florence. The traffic was insane and motorcycles zipped in and out of lanes willy-nilly.
So, with head hanging low, I took the keys to our car and squeezed in behind the wheel. It was raining – of course it was raining! – and the guy at the rental desk informed us that our GPS wouldn’t work in this part of the city for some reason or another – of course it wouldn’t work in the city for some reason or another!
And just redline my stress level, I had to grapple with the fact that I hadn’t driven a stick shift in roughly 25 years, and–back then– my overuse of third gear and underuse of the clutch chewed up my transmission in about six months.
I sighed, turned the key, said a silent prayer and slipped into first gear. It was noontime… I’m sure the very worst time to be driving around in a rainy, trafficy city with lots of one-way streets, roundabouts, crazy drivers and signs in a language I didn’t understand.
Let’s do this!
With my wife Anita navigating (“Next right, then next left… ummm… then something weird with a roundabout…”), we jumped into the deep end. We missed one of our turns, but figured we were kinda going in the right direction, so we motored on. What’s the worst that could happen? Oh yeah, a wreck in a terrible part of town in the rain. Quit asking me what the worst thing that could happen is! I’M TRYING TO DRIVE HERE!
Then we went through a tunnel and our GPS burped to life. We had one more scary, everybody-honking-at-us moment at an automated toll booth, but then we were on a major highway and everything was alright (after I realized that you need to drive 100 miles an hour in the slow lane).
About 10 miles outside of Florence, my butt finally unclenched and I let out a deep breath.
Next stop: Cortona!