Mark Driver Goes to Europe For the First Time On A Sexy Italian Vacation that He Can’t Afford Act 2

Mark Driver Goes to Europe For the First Time On A Sexy Italian Vacation that He Can’t Afford

Act 2: The Plane Ride Over

The smell of my own piss nearly made me gag. What the fuck? Like it’s not hard enough to pee inside that tiny metal airplane bowl and regulate the pressure to minimize the backsplash on my fresh pair of khakis, now I gotta choke on these chlorine fumes? Ack! What the hell’s coming out of me? Mustard gas? Thallium salts? Black Leaf No. 40? I remembered reading about some lady in Indianapolis turning into a biohazard on her deathbed, some fucked up reaction where her blood turned into industrial ammonia and she had to be buried in a metal drum by a haz-mat team somewhere outside of Newark. Was this happening to me? Was I dying?

Maybe it was something I ate. I didn’t remember eating a rotten opossum or a broken garbage disposal for breakfast. I had spinach and an apple and half a head of cabbage and three eggs and, oh. Asparagus. I ate a pound of asparagus. Maybe 2 pounds. Phew. Pee-eww. Try it some time. Case closed.

But why had I eaten thirty spears of asparagus for breakfast before getting on a plane? Because I hate wasting food. Sure it was 4:30 in the morning and sure I had only gotten 2 hours of sleep, but nothing breaks my heart like coming home from vacation to find all those plastic bags of green, watery goo in the vegetable drawer. While I’m screaming through the streets of some foreign burg with a jug of wine duct taped to my head, those poor, poor plant and dairy products are festering in the darkness of the fridge, abandoned, fearful, streaming tears of rot rolling down the exteriors of their gummy packaging. Spoiled milk hurts my feelings, a soft apple can make me cry. Don’t even talk to me about a brown artichoke, or that wedge of stilton wrapped in chestnut leaves trapped back behind the frying oil, slowly liquefying into even smellier misery.

So, whenever I go on vacation, I don’t buy anything perishable for a month prior to splitting, and in the mean time, I eat everything that could possibly go bad, stuff that may already be bad. And that Washington State asparagus, cheap and bountiful for two weeks at the end of spring, had called my name. I sang sonnets to it on the way home from the grocery store, created spontaneous haiku of love as I pulled it from the shopping bag and lay it in my fridge. But then my cries of love silenced. I let it sit in the vegetable crisper, like an abandoned three legged puppy in the pound, pushing a wet nose through its cage, trying to attract the attention of that spoiled little boy so it won’t get nerve gassed next Thursday without ever feeling the exuberance of love – but that spoiled little boy goes for the perfect dog every time.

He wants to be a celebrity, he imagines every moment of his day to be a scene out of a movie. One day he will grow into a man that shops like a woman.

On the way to the airport, a voice on the radio told me that the average man spends 51 minutes grooming himself in the morning. Unless ‘grooming’ means two games of Playstation hockey and beating off into the bathroom sink, I don’t understand how that 51 minutes could possibly be spent. An endless loop of lathering, rinsing, repeating? Knee pit preparation? Intrusive tooth whitening machines? A spectacular gladiator battle with a Triton 500 hairdryer and a pink can Aqua Net? 51 minutes? 5 minutes. 5 minutes is what I need to be up and out the door, and that’s including slamming that door on my leg and the three minutes of writhing and cursing that goes along with it. And by the law of statistical averages, my 5 minutes of prep means that some guy out there is spending 97 minutes getting ready. I can only assume he also carries tampons in his purse.

I guess we all want to look like celebrities.

But not me, I just want to give asparagus the respect it deserves. Now at 40,000 feet, that asparagus is thanking me by gassing me silly.

There’s no space to move in an airplane lavatory, and I can’t swing my arms around like I like to. No karate practice. No baseball umpire impersonations. I couldn’t even jump up on the toilet seat without banging my head on the ceiling of the plane. I felt the icon encoded walls closing in. Joining the mile high club may be prestigious, but it’s also a good way to puncture your spleen on a lotion dispenser. But then the seatbealt light came back on and I obediently returned to my seat, pulling my dressy maroon shirt down over the darkening backsplash on my Dickies. Damn that asparagus urine!

As a habit, I usually only follow rules that make sense. I don’t wait for the walk sign, I don’t feel bad about walking in public with a can of beer, I’ll use the same plate at all you can eat restaurants over and over and over again. But on an airplane, I follow ALL the rules. I listen when the ladies give their little stewardess spiel, I identify the exit row nearest to me, I keep my seatbelt fastened when not moving about the cabin, I even laugh dutifully when the pilot tells passengers to keep all hands and arms inside the airplane at all time. You wanna know why I do everything right on an airplane? Because I’m a fucking flying coward.

A white knuckle flyer means you’re a bad flyer. A fearful flyer. You grip the armrests of your plane so tightly on take-off, your knuckles pop out of your skin and show their bony whiteness, and your totally wussiness.

I go beyond white knuckle flying. I call it red knuckle flying. I’m gripping so hard, my knuckles actually separate from their joints and shoot across the airplane in a gory jet of adrenaline and blood.

I didn’t used to be such a chicken shit. I’ve flown a hundred times. Each trip, however, gets a little harder. Maybe my brain is working on the crash statistics and coming up with some unconsciously terrifying numbers. I wouldn’t put it past that nefarious unconscious of mine, what with its rutting unicorns and all.

I used to think that admitting fear was cowardly, that getting the shakes over something made me a big pussy. That real men weren’t afraid of anything. What a total crock of shit. Fear is human. The cowardice lies in letting fear take you over. Bravery is giving fear a shaky middle finger, attempting to spit at it with your dry tongue, and taking that terrifying step into the mouth of the monster. Everything can be overcome if you just keep walking.

And, just to make sure that I haven’t damaged my tough guy image too bad, I still catch snakes in my hands, breakdance on building ledges, enjoy political rioting, and will walk into any bar in any city in the entire world and attempt to stay for at least one drink.

Still, I think anyone who isn’t terrified on take-off is a fool. Haven’t they ever seen Traces of Death where, over a lovely soundtrack of Mortician and Gorefest, they show 30,000 real life plane wrecks from every single angle and possibility? Don’t they know about all the moving parts on an airplane and everything that can go wrong? Didn’t those ground mechanics look a little suspect to you, sort of high? Was that the same pilot buying shots for the entire bar next to my house last night before? Are the stewardesses looking slightly distant, suicidal? Doesn’t anyone else realize that the bald lady with the dirty blanket-jacket has a uterus stuffed full of plastique with a tampon string detonator?

My imagination always eats me alive.

Like when I was a bratty ten year old Driver. Loud noises at night weren’t run of the mill monsters roaming around the house. They had names, histories, complex motivations. They were metal Pterodactyls who oiled their beaks with little kid blood. They were cowboy sheriff zombies that showed exposed ribs through their crusty leather vests, out for justice. There was a fire-breathing centipede a thousand feet long, teeth scratching at my door while the black segmented body snaked down the hallway, down the stairs, into the basement, out the basement door into the woods, into our nearest neighbor’s house, and its other end was eating the girl who was my age and I had a crush on. We’d meet together in the centipede’s stomach and live on Twinkies and Capri Sun.

Even with women, my imagination is a killer. I can spot any girl, simulate the entire torrid relationship in my head, get totally sick of her bullshit, and then end everything in a split second, not caring how much her family liked me. All this without ever even involving her! I suppose not involving more than one girl in my life in the past eight years is perhaps my greatest effort on the part of humanity. I picked a girlfriend made of asbestos who eats plain crashes for lunch and asks for seconds and leaves nothing left over for my imagination to kill.

And this girlfriend thought I was a pussy for twisting around in my seat like a incontinent octopus every time the plane hit a little bit of turbulence. She kept poking me and whispering “we’re going down!” in my ear. I used my imagination to fast forward through my murder trial, and I didn’t get off, so I didn’t bother to strangle her. Homicide is a sure bet to ruin a romantic getaway. Besides, the girl could prove to be useful in Rome.


I mentioned in my last entry that men in the back of the plane were singing. They had been up front earlier, but their animated conversation had been forcibly moved to the back of the plane by a man unable to enjoy the in-flight entertainment, a repeat of “Frasier” that even the Amish aboard had seen a hundred times.

An Italian guy, 40ish, slim, a little bald upstairs, with a warm love of humanity that showed every time he flashed his glass-melting smile to anyone who would look in his direction – this guy made enemies right away. He was boisterous, and laughed loudly for no apparent reason. Among the scowling senior citizens he was universally despised.

And then we heard a kitten meow, a cute, high-pitched “mee-ewww” that turned everyone within a ten seat radius into mush. We traced the sound to a little girl across the aisle and up a row with a cat carrier at her feet. She was fishing out a treat from her little blue Pokemon bag, explaining to the lady across the aisle that the kitten’s name was Mike, and Mike always asked for treats when he got hungry, and sometimes when he got lonely, and sometimes when he was scared.

Mike let out another tiny meew, when this sack of shit in front of her, a blubbery smear of a man with an appearance somewhere between Ed Asner and genital herpes, spun around with more energy than all he’d exerted over the past 20 years and bellowed, “a cat!” at the little girl who, justifiably terrified, suddenly began crying. Jabba the Passenger shook a wormy finger at the little girl and continued.

“I’m allergic to cats! I did not pay $750 to be exposed to pet dander! That animal should be down below with the luggage!” and began attacking the stewardess assault button.

Now, I’m not the sort of person to sit around and let a 6 year old girl get picked on, certainly not by some dumb old guy who apparently paid twice what I did for his plane ticket, so, my brief career as an Argentinean diplomat to Paraguay in mind, I strategically and very tactfully screamed, “hey you fat fuck, why don’t you go pick on someone your own size, like this airplane,” which smoothed over everything perfectly. My girlfriend, a fan of any sort of small furry animal, and always the proper lady backed me up by yelling “I hope that kitten gives you have a heart attack, you mean old bastard!”

I sucked in some air for another productive barrage of insulting, and then, as if from heaven, a hand came softy down on my shoulder. A great Italian smile took the rancor from my belly.

“My friend, please, allow me to handle this situation.”

I bet that Italian dude had been waiting to help someone, anyone on that plane. Please Virgin Mary, he had been saying with his hands clenched, please, please let me help someone. Asthma attack, choking victim, epileptic fit, conjugal disagreement, confusion over the chicken/beef meal decision, an Arab-Israeli conflagration, anything. Justa letta mea helpa!

Well, now he had his mission.

He scooted up to the little girl and smoothed her hair, shushing her tenderly, and wiping a tear from her eye. If he had been an American, I would’ve expected him to ask her to get into his van for some candy, but I was giving him the benefit of the doubt. The girl had stopped crying and the Italian guy even managed to stop Mike from wining with a quick poke through the bars of the carrier. Then he moved onto the complaining guy. Very calmly he began the conversation.

“Sir, she is a little girl and the cat is very small. Surely it cannot bother you that much.”

The old dude didn’t even look at the Italian guy, but kept pushing at the little stewardess button, bleating an “I’m allergic” mantra to a spot on the wall until one of the stewardesses managed to pry herself away from the beverage cart to see what was going on.

“What can I do for you?” the stewardess seemed slightly annoyed at being interrupted. The Italian guy, hands up for plenty of gesturing, began to explain the situation. The old guy talked over him, like he wasn’t even there.

“This isn’t any of his business. I am allergic to cats. I want that cat off this plane.”

“Sir, I’m afraid that’s impossible, but I’ll be we can find someone willing to switch seats with you and your wife.”

“I’m not moving. I didn’t pay $750 to be exposed to cat dander and shuffled all over the plane.”

“To be fair, sir, this girl’s parents paid $120 for the cat to fly.”

“I don’t care how much they paid. I don’t even know why a little girl is flying to Italy by herself in the first place.”

During this time we all sat around and watched, but two other Italian guys, attracted to the commotion like bees to spilled soda, came over and tried to help. They were a tag team of upturned palms and pleasant reasoning with the fat guy who wouldn’t look anywhere but the stewardess. After the first Italian guy explained what was going on to the other guys, they started walking down the aisles of the plane, asking if anybody would like help out a little girl traveling alone and her cat Michael. After five minutes of Italian charm, the entire plane was dying to switch seats, and Mike and the kid were soon replaced by a young couple in matching Dockers, who became instant airborne celebrities.

Even with the situation taken care of, the Italian guys kept talking to that old fat man, trying to make everything OK. He completely clammed up after the stewardess took off and stared straight ahead, ignoring them completely, obviously uncomfortable dealing with people he did not hold commercial power over.

Eventually they gave up and started talking amongst themselves, standing right by the fat man’s armrest, laughing and flapping their arms like whooping cranes. The gesturing seemed so much a part of the conversation, if you would’ve hacked off their arms and legs, they’d have no idea what the other was saying, although they’d probably be very upbeat about being amputees.

The oldest guy was 70-ish and exactly like Igor Stravinsky. The youngest was an 18 year old kid with a dumb haircut wearing a Hard Rock Café Madrid T-shirt. I don’t think they knew each other prior to the trip. They were best friends now.

They were still best friends an hour later. It was nearly impossible to imagine a conversation held standing in the aisle of an airplane could be that riveting after an hour, but it was great. Lord knows what the fuck they were talking about because even with my diligent study of the beauteous Italian language, I couldn’t pick out a single word. It sounded like underwater Spanish. For all I know, they could have been plotting the systematic cannibalism of every infant on the plane, or even worse, they could have been Lazio football supporters. Whatever they were talking about, I wanted in. They just seemed so happy.

And then the in-flight entertainment began, and though most everyone in coach class scrambled for their headphones like they were an antidote to an accidentally ingested poison, the Italian guys didn’t seem to care much, or even notice. The went right on yelling and hugging each other in comradicological joy, which caused the headphoned phonies around me to panic frantically. They were being distracted! By the Italians! What to do, what to do!

Someone a few rows up finally called one guy over and told them to get out of the way. They smiled and apologized and the pushed up to an exit row right near the screen where they were sure they would block nobody’s view. They started up right where they left off, and the zombies around me zoned out on the screen. My girl was taking a nap. I didn’t want to watch TV! I wanted to hang out with the Italians!

TV can be OK if you’re watching soccer or hockey alone late at night, but otherwise, it’s such a fucking cop out. How many couples spend every evening watching television together as an excuse to not talk when they could be out drinking and fucking? It’s a place holder. Don’t talk until the commercials, and then you’ve forgotten what you had to say.

Television is America. It doesn’t ask that we be witty or interesting or defend an opinion or be able to hold up our end of a conversation. It doesn’t even care if we understand. It just politely calls for our hollow gaze.

Which was apparently difficult for the guy across the aisle and one seat back. He was having problems. It was those Italian guys again. Even though we couldn’t hear them, we could still see them waving their arms around, and every so often, when the Hard Rock was explaining about something really big, his hand cast a shadow across the screen that sent convulsions through the cabin. Unable to talk to them directly, the guy behind me yielded to the stewardess button and demanded that she move the distraction.

He pushed a button and got the result he expected.

So the stewardess, looking as if her mother demanded that she tell her new cool friends they weren’t allowed to smoke cigarettes on the porch, went up and explained to the Italians that they were distracting people trying to watch the show. The older guy leaned around to see what was on the screen.

“This? Who is watching this?”

And then he looked at all the dead eyes with headphones staring at him and said,

“Oh. I see.”

The middle-age guy wanted to know who complained so that he could apologize, but the stewardess would not divulge that information, so the men moved to the back of the plane, politely apologizing to everyone in the aisles, and I FINALLY got to use some of my Italian to say:

“Non importa”

which, if you’re to thick to pick up on the context, means ‘I don’t care’, although to judge from his facial expression, I think he thought that I meant, “apologize all you want, I don’t care. I’m still very upset with you.” He shrugged and they were back in the plane.

Five minutes after the guys moved to the back of the plane, the guy who complained was asleep, mouth wide open, drooling all over his new vacation shirt. An hour later he would be awoken by singing Italian voices from the back of the plane. And so complaints to the stewardesses began to add up once again, suffocating under the weight of their own importance …

But enough about the Italians, I was having problems of my own. Namely, free booze vs. arrival time. We would be coming into Fiumicino at 8:30 in the morning. We would then have to take the train to the city and then find our hotel, which, with my luck, probably wouldn’t let us check in until 2 or 3 in the afternoon. 2 or 3 in the afternoon was still many hours away, long enough to get totally plastered, pass out, sleep it off, and be hungover as fuck just in time to hit the sidewalk outside of the airport. Nevertheless, the carts kept coming through with wine, and not that sugary Livingston Farms shit, bottled in San Jose with sulfites up the ass, but yummy yummy Italian wine. So clean, so luscious, so cold and drinkable. It wasn’t the bracing bitters. It rolled on the tongue like tiny balls of spring water and finished with a sexy little gasp. How would a wine snob describe it? Woody, precocious, with a delightful hint of supple gregarity.

I am rather notorious for getting a little out of hand while traveling, so my girl tried to foist some shit on me that I was only to consume two alcoholic drinks until we got there, both of which I would had already put away if the airport bar had been open at 6 in the morning. On the flight home, apparently, I could go ‘Driverwild’ (as the phrase had come to be termed), but until we were sitting in our Roman hotel room with our muddy shoes on the pillows, I was only allowed to put a mere 14 oz of wine through me. Oh, really?
Allowed?

But shit, baby, it’s like a 12 hour flight. Let’s think about this scientifically. It takes your body one hour to completely get rid of one glass of wine, right? And the cumulative effects of a hangover don’t hit me until about 13 or 14 drinks, right? So, let’s take that two number, triple it, and then let me drink that many. Six drinks? Come on, let’s have six drinks. Get our bodies ready for vacation. We’re talking about nothing but dead time in this constrained place surrounded by people we’ll never see again and who could all die tomorrow and we’d laugh about it. And all of the booze is free, and it’s so fucking delicious. And we’re on vacation, we’re on vacation, we’re on vacation …

And then, six drinks later, we landed. I didn’t sleep really, I just sort of faded for a bit and unfaded and we were landing.

We got off the plane and since we didn’t check anything, we pushed on through to customs. Along the way, I stopped in a bathroom that had, get this, full stall doors that went all the way to the floor and all the way to the ceiling! They were miniature shitting rooms! No way that would fly in America. The second you put one in you’ve have a scratch-tagging heroin hooker giving hummers and running an illegal craps game while roosters fought pitbulls in the toilet bowl. We couldn’t behave ourselves in there.

After doing my duty in the civilized sanctity of that little room, I push on a number of wall sconces that surrounded me. The one that least looked like a flusher turned out to be the flusher, and one slightly confusing handwash later, I was lean and ready to rumble.

Upon reuniting with the girl, who seemed as impressed with the full bathroom door as I was, we cued up for customs. Repeating my dimestore Italian in a trancelike state, I was ready to answer any of their questions, in their native tongue. Wouldn’t I be hot! When it was my turn to pass through, the smiling woman in the glass booth looked at my passport and then looked at me. With an unbelievably cute accent she said, “Italy welcomes you Signore Driver”. I was through the passport check. I was ready to open my bags.

But, apparently, on that morning at least, Italian customs was nothing more than a smiling booth lady and two laughing agents leaning against the wall a hundred feet away, smoking little cigarettes underneath a no smoking sign, completely oblivious to the fact that Mark Driver had just breached their country unsearched. A unsmiling fifteen year old kid with a skinny little machine gun was all that stood between us and the sidewalk outside. I paused for a second, and he nervously waved me through.

Krustie was out right behind me, dragging her rolling suitcase with a cigarette already hanging out one corner of her mouth. She held a lighter her other hand. No smokes for three quarters of a day, the poor addicted thing. She went outside. I was still fascinated by the machine gun. I stared at the little soldier, trying to figure out the caliber of a second weapon strapped into his belt. He looked at me nervously, and turned my direction.

That’s it Mark, spook the kid with the machine gun.

I turned to reunite with my smoking girl outside, to see an older guy in a customs uniform lighting her cigarette for her. He was saying something and she was blushing like cheap wine. When he saw me coming he smoothly waltzed away on feet of melted butter. A passing airport employee slid by, smiled at her and said “bella.”

She gushed again.

“Hey, don’t get all swoony there. ‘Bella’ means ‘blood sucking vampire person’.”

“Fuck you, I know what ‘bella’ means.”

“Oh, and I suppose Bela Lugosi was-“

“Shut up.”

A guy in a passing car slowed down to check her out. I couldn’t get too threatened though, his tiny ride made a Toyota Tercel look like an aircraft carrier.

“Oh,” she squealed, “Look how cute that little car is!”

I suddenly felt that I may be coming back alone.

But then, three amazing Italian girls rushed by us through the exit doors to tearfully great a friend. They smelled terrific, and I found myself quoting Ice Cube in the Broadway adaptation of Anaconda, where he first lays eyes upon the great snake and says “Daaaaaamn.”

“What?” I still didn’t have her full attention.

I pointed at the girls. “Bella.”

She punched me in the arm.

“Mi despiace. Vorrei bere qualcorso.”

“What does that mean?”

“Vorrei parlare con un sacerdote!”

“Stop it.”

“Mi fanno male le gengive e mi si e rotto un dente! Mi faccia l’iniezione, per favore!”

“Cut it out! What are you saying?”

She chased me to the train platform and, cocky with my new Italian I faced the leathery signora behind the glass and barked my ticket order, two tickets on the Metropolitan run.

“Do-ay-met-ro-pal- eet-ah-no.”

“Que? Repitamo?” She looked a little pissed.

A little more reserved I held up two fingers. She nodded and said this:

“Si, due. Portiquestaraptablambocomostidichivagolazertagliani?”

“Uh, metropolitan. O. Uh, to Rome. Roma.”

“Si, due metripolitano a Roma. Ciquementalaplazillalira!” She pointed at the money thing.

“Oh, si si.”

I handed her a colorful Italian bill with a big number on it. She shot me a poopy look to tell me that this was on par with paying for a shoelace with $10,000.

“somesing a smalla?”

I just smiled a no, she hit the button twice and I got two tickets and a wad of change too big for my pockets. After beating all of the odds by walking the wrong way three times, we finally stopped to ask a conductor type person which train to get on to go to Rome.

“Scusi Signore, dove la trena di Roma?”

“Che? Repeta?”

I panicked and went for the standby.

“Uh, par-lay Een-glesh-ay?”

“Repeta?”

“Par-ah-lay een-gah-leh-she.”

“Inglese? No. Parla Franchese?”

“No.”

“Portuguese?”

“No.”

“Germanese?”

“Ya! Ich sprachen eine kliene Deutch.”

He must not have understood my German accent either because he continued with the list of languages that he knew and I didn’t.

“Espagnia?”

“No. Wait. Yes, I mean Si! Si, hablo espanol.”

“Bene, ahh, Bueh-noh.”

But fuck that, I wasn’t going to revert to Spanish in Italy. I tried my Italian again.

“Dove il treno di Roma.”

He started laughing.

“Signore! Italiano, non espagniola! Capesce Italiano?”

“Un po.”

He laughed some more and smacked the train we were standing by and said very clearly and very slowly, “Rrr-oooohhh-mmmmm-aaaa.”

“Metripolitano?”

“Che?”

“Non importa. Graztie mille.”

“Che?”

He laughed again and smacked me on the back. As soon as we got on the train, it was the girl’s turn to start up with me.

“Well, that was fucking smooth Mr. Italiano. I thought you learned Italian.”

“I thought I did too.” I’m not one shaken easily, but after two yucky run-ins, my confidence was certainly breached and leaking water.

“It’s all those goddamn masculine and feminine nouns. Who the fuck decided that all chairs are boys and that potatoes are girls.”

“Actually, in French, potatoes are-“

“Well why the fuck didn’t you bust out your French when he asked?”

“I didn’t know he asked. I don’t speak Italian fluently like you do. Jesus Christ, you sit around the house all day not doing a damn thing. The least you could’ve done was learn a few Italian phrases. At least some numbers for shit’s sake.”

“I know the fucking numbers.”

I suddenly got really tired and discouraged, and slumped against the window. Outside of the train, the terrain looked like Indiana with smog. Green fields, a few fat trees, yellow sky.

When she saw that I was actually sort of bummed, she let up.

“Aww, I’m just messing with you. Cheer up. We’re in Italy.”

“Yeah, you’re right. We made it. I just want to brush my teeth.”

“Me too.”

“Why you always gotta brusha my teeth? Why canta you ever brusha your own?”

She smiled and kissed me on the ear. Yeah yeah. I hate it when you know you’re being a loser and you can’t do anything about it. Maybe it was just cos I was tired, I’m just not used to being the jackass, being the person who doesn’t know what to do, the dipshit that everyone points out to and says “look at that dipshit”. Fuck, maybe I am, but it doesn’t usually bother me. But now, none of the signs made sense and people were speaking gibberish. I picked up a newspaper that meant nothing to me. Despite well laid plans I was somewhat hung-over. I hadn’t slept in nearly two days. I was hungry, I was filthy, my teeth hurt, my guts were twisted from too much sitting, my legs were cramped, I was totally dehydrated, my skin was tender, and I was

….. fast becoming a big fucking whiner.

Suck it up, Driver. Vacation’s just begun. All those poor bastards are rotting back in the States, and you’re in motherfucking Italy. This ain’t no funeral, so stop your whimpering. Sit up straight, suck in that gut, look out the window, study your surroundings, listen to the people talking! For once in your life it’s just music, it doesn’t mean anything. They could be talking about anything. It doesn’t matter, just listen, look out the window, keep your eyes open, and learn something. Remember it all. Your discomfort is temporary. Transitory. Meaningless. You will make up the sleep, you will get something to eat, your guts will stop hurting, but this trip will be with you forever. Make it worth remembering. Vacations are rare, beautiful things. Going somewhere new is the nicest thing in the world. And you gotta do it balls out, or it’s not worth doing. Right? Right. Now, what’s our vacation motto?

“Discomfort is temporary, experience is forever.”

And what are you going to do to this vacation?

“I’M GOING TO FUCK THE HELL OUT OF IT!”

The severed torso of my second grade teacher popped into my head. She pulled her purplish lips back and said, “now, are we ready to stop crying and start learning?”

I nodded, pulled the pacifier out of my mouth and removed my diaper. The girl sensed my mood change.

“You back with us?”

“Yup.”

“I’m sure by the time we leave, your accent will be just fine. Besides, I’ll bet most everyone here speaks a little bit of English.”

“Yeah. I guess we are still sort of far from the city. Once we get in the middle of things it should get easier.”

Fuck, were we wrong.

The conductor shouted another word I didn’t understand and the train started to move.