Currently in Venice.

You would think that perhaps travelling would make me feel better. But, if anyone knows me...then they also know the kind of crap that happens to me.

Travelling has not made me feel better.

I am now sick as a dog in Venice after a train ride from hell...

Let me explain.

Sunday night I was planning to leave Paris at 10 p.m....for Venice...at around 7 p.m. I realize that the train is really for 8:30 p.m.ish...Needless to say I rush around like a chicken without a head doing 10 things per minute...and make it to the station on time.

The station is overflowing with people. The train is late. I have no reservation.

The train is reservation compulsory.

Problem #1: Getting into Venice by the next morning to meet the person who will be meeting me there when the train is full. Very full, and not a seat/couchette reservation free in sight.

I beg the controllers...can't get a response...finally one of them tells me to just get on the train about halfway and find a seat when someone leaves...and pay for the seat. This I do.

The train leaves, an Italian controller guy comes by checking the seats. I had put myself in one of the seat cabins with a family...there was plenty of room. He comes buy and tells me that I cannot stay there, that I must wait in the gangway (next to the "standing in gangway is not allowed" sign), and that he will come deal with me afterward.

Apprehensive, I leave the cabin. Trash, stowaway crap...that's what I was. My presence defiling the family's cabin. Or so I felt.

Meanwhile I saw two guys with ticket dates apparently incorrect told they could not enter their compartment either. Conniving idiots, or poor souls, I thought.

Waiting in the gangway, which is the section of the train where you have the doors to go out and the toilet...is freakin' cold.

I bundled up and sat on my bag...listening to music and waiting for the controller to come by. And come by he did--wherein I showed him my Eurail pass (which, if I ever had more reason to be apprehensive, was not mine in this case but a girl named Nancy's). He introduced himself to me as Marco, and I, in turn, introduced myself as Tami. D'oh!

If my luck were really as bad as usual, then perhaps I would have been thrown off the train right then, while it was moving...he would have said, "Tami?...but...isn't your name supposed to be Nancy?" But, perhaps because it was so noisy there, he didn't notice. The endings do sound rather similar...and, as I later found out, he had other thoughts in his head anyway.

So, he tells me that he will look for a seat, but that if he cannot find one, I'll have to get off the train in Dijon. Okay, I say, and sit back down...meanwhile letting the connecting train doors open and close for random people...and now with splitting headache and very cold feet (not in the figurative sense, but in the extremely cold literal sense).

The controller comes by again, says he can't find anything, but not to worry. Then he looks at me with his sparkly/beady eyes and says:

"So, where are you going to meet your boyfriend, you have a boyfriend..."

I stare at him (remember, this is roughly 14 hours after my conversation with Jack*)..."Ummm...no..."

"You don't have a boyfriend?"

"Umm...no...that ended, quite recently."

"What? I didn't understand, can't hear you..."

He gets closer.

I am backed against the wall and he leans in and strokes my face.

"Ohhh...(then says something about it being too bad, or so bad...or something)," and he leaves...

I slump back onto my backpack. Things are not turning out the way I want them to.

The creep walks by again, gets within inches of me...says he's looking for a place still, to not worry too much, and puckers his lips.

I am glued to the wall, leaning away from his lips...and staring at him. He moves closer, apparently "asking" for a kiss. I lean to the side of him...testing out the distance of my right arm from the back of his neck. Then I lean back and tell him,

"I'm sorry, I don't do that."

He smiled his greasy smile and shuffled away.

Oh well, I thought. Let them throw me off the train.

It is getting very cold...

He comes by once again, with his lips puckered. I tell him "no, thanks" again...trying to walk the fine line of polite resistance, knowing full well the bastard is only trying to use his supposed position of power to fulfill his vomitous fantasies.

The final time he walks by...each time leering at me, I should add...he gives me a "sorrowful" look...

"There's nothing on the whole train...but you can stay here, I will pretend I never saw you...Or, if you want a place, you can come with me, it's a very small bed/area, but you can come with me..."

I tell him thanks, but no thanks. That I would stay there. He heard the thanks.

"Si???" he says..."You can stay the whole night there..." (I bet.)

I loudly enunciate my "No. Thanks"...and finally, he leaves.

Alone in the bright light, cold metal and freezing cold of the gangway.

After about 2 torturous hours there, wherein I dressed in all my winter clothes...I have wedged myself into a small area by the door so that I am precariously positioned on top of my backpack on the edge by the stairs...(if the door opens...I am out the train...on the floor)...a couple controllers come by...including Mr. Creepy (and his Italian friend who had also seized the opportunity when he walked by another time to caress my face in passing and say "ciao"), and they told me I had to get off the train because the police would be coming by and I couldn't stay there.

One of the people who had been entering the area back and forth was this middle-aged man who told me there were 6-8 other people, including himself, in a similar position, waiting further down the train...he went to join them and had asked if I was gonna go too. I told him I thought it would be easier to be kicked off as a group then as an individual...(after all, creepy had said it was okay, and another French controller guy had said that he wouldn't say a word...but wasn't so sure about the italians--i thought i had it covered). So I had stayed alone.

Now I went to join them. I found them in the restaurant, sitting there...a whole group, and boy could you write a book about this trip with the colorful personalities and the experiences we shared that night...during the altogether 12 hour trip to Venice.

Apparently a handful of the others had had a problem with their reservations--the train station had given them reservations with the wrong dates...but the chief of the train said that they could stay in the restaurant. So, putting my lot in with theirs, I was warm, at least for the moment. Someone gave me a cookie. Outside was entirely white, it looked like a huge snowstorm...and I coughed/sniffled apprehensively...hoping they didn't kick me off the train there, in the middle of nowhere, late at night, during a blizzard.

The Italian controllers all gathered in the restaurant and were served huge platters of pasta, cheese, meats, wine...(I had not eaten more than half a baguette with cheese on it and a tiny bowl of pasta the entire day)...none for us. Creepy was there with them...with the other guy who had told me I would have to get off the train, but...for the moment, the food distracted them...and I tried to hide myself and pretend to be an original member of the group.

The group was made up of two Italian women, one of whom was hilariously funny with her sarcastic comments, but also her constant attention to keeping our portion of the train clean. An African woman, who soon conked out. A young couple, the woman French-Canadian, the other Argentinian--tango instructors in Paris. Two young men, the ones who had had the wrong ticket dates from earlier and had seen rushing throughout the train. One of the guys was quiet and reflective, the other one had a very macho brash attitude. He kept cussing about the whole situation in numerous languages...very humorous. And the last of the group was the middle-aged man from before, who tried to make sure I was okay throughout the night, very kind man. Needless to say, everyone was at least bilingual...and the conversations were in Italian, French, English, Spanish...if I didn't understand something, it was translated into French for me...

The funny Italian woman settled into her chairs, with her feet propped up...and stared up at the light, mock imitating an interrogation in her sarcastic tone. Obviously, she wanted the light shut off, as did we all, so we could sleep.

The French/Canadian woman next to me put her feet up on a suitcase...propped up next to the table. The funny Italian woman stared...

"could you not have your feet facing me?"

she moves her feet to the right

The Italian woman moves the tablecloth away from the vicinity.

A moment of silence, then...

"So...do you think you could take your shoes off?"

I laughed my head off.

Anyway, the Italians finally finished their meal, finished their smoking in the "non-smoking" restaurant...and left. A couple of them remained, talking loudly...already early in the morning, everyone had spread out in the chairs to try and sleep. The middle-aged man kept shusshing the loud Italians...who, though they had turned off the lights in the restaurant, were still talking in the adjoining kitchen.

The second "shush" pissed off the workers who exclaimed that it was a restaurant and then blared all the lights in the place. Not an eye remained shut. We all woke up.

The Italian woman grumbles..."Quelle vie difficile"...(What a difficult life!), at which I laugh again. I suppose my reaction to tragedy.

The two French guys across the table from me are cussing out the situation in actually eloquent (when not using specific words) French..."Ils ont fait express pour nous. Ca, c'est sur!" (It's sure that they're doing this on purpose)...they continued cussing out the situation, talking about how they would go back and report this...

I kept laughing. The French/Canadian woman too. What else could we do?

Normally there is an extra car for dispossed people like us...but, in this case, they had detached the extra car shortly before we left Paris. Our luck. It was the first time they'd ever had "guests" in the restaurant during the night, and they thought we were lucky enough to be there and not out in the cold.

Finally, they turn off the lights, shut off everything. I suppose they had just been trying to temporarily piss us off. Apparently, as we soon learned, that was only just the beginning.

We all settled in for the night...it would be a long night, and we needed to sleep.

Outside the blizzard continued.

It started to get cold.

They had shut off the heat to the restaurant car.

Soon our breath starting coming out white, everytime I took a breath I fogged up my glasses...It was too cold to sleep. The two guys had moved back to the same side of the booth in order to share their body heat, they were zipped up in their jackets. The French/Canadian woman slid in next to me...bundled up. Everyone was awake.

The Italian woman went looking for a controller to wake them up, to tell them we were freezing.

Everyone went over to their bags and started pulling out extra clothes. I took out my towel, put on extra socks (my feet had now become blocks of ice)...and I bundled myself up in my scarf, hat and gloves...zipping up my jacket and putting on the hood.

Outside the flurries continued. Inside we were all dressed in our warmest. And still freezing.

We all sat there, in the dark, shivering...

"C'est honteaux"...(It's shameful)...the French guys kept exclaiming...(though I say French guys, they are of Italian origin, so could also somewhat speak/understand Italian). After two hours of this...this nonsleep, ice conditions (a window was cracked open and we could not close it)...the train stopped again, and this time the police entered the car.

Like hypothermia victims we all gazed at them, and then the French guys and the Italian woman started asking for heat, telling them what had been happening...how the controllers didn't give a damn. How they had said that since the restaurant was closed, the heating would be closed too...and too bad if there was human life there, that we could all get sick, or freeze to death...

They said they would get the heat for us. The train was stopped though, and there would be no heat until the engine turned back on. Meanwhile,

The French guys kept exclaiming that we were being treated like animals, like cattle...it was worse for them because their ticket had been screwed up by the train station, and they had paid for their tickets twice, as a result...to ensure their current booking...while others were asleep in warm compartiments or couchettes, we were all freezing...while other cars were heated, we were kept to sub-zero temperatures. Celsius.

The train remained stopped for nearly an hour. But what an hour.

I had finally gotten up to try and get blood circulation going. My feet hurt so much I couldn't feel anything. I hadn't felt my toes for nearly an hour...and now I was having trouble walking. I was coughing continuously and...I felt frozen. We all snuck into a neighboring car...which was about 15° warmer just in their hallway...silently standing there...we all tried to warm up. If we spoke, we would be kicked out, back to the restaurant...for we would wake the poor passengers, while we, obviously nonhuman, nondeserving creatures...were treated like (forgive me for the comparison (and its resulting allusion) but in hyperbolic terms, it is apt)...cattle. I told the French/Canadian about my feet...she told me I should probably take my shoes off. I was very worried now. I had put on extra socks, but nothing was helping...and it was now intensely painful to walk.

I went back into the cold car...and took my shoes off, tried massaging my frozen feet, but I realized my hands weren't warm enough...that I didn't have enough, if any, body heat in me to warm my feet. So I did the only thing I could think of.

I started running. In place. In the middle of the restaurant car. The others thought it was at the same time comic...and very tragic. But I had to run.

A fine story this will make, I thought. "Girl runs to keep from dying."

I run and run...though I am out of shape, it's amazing the fight or flight instincts in your body. I ran for a full 20 minutes without being in the least bit tired...though a few times I had to put my arms out to balance myself because my feet were so numb and I couldn't tell where I was placing them...they were like stumps.

Finally I sat back into my chair, took my shoes and socks off...I had a small sweat going (I had really had to go to the bathroom throughout the entire trip, but kept holding it because I heard/read somewhere that urinating when you are cold releases the heat from your body...made sense...I suppose...though I wondered about that guy who had urinated to save himself from an avalanche...and had drank all the alcohol. I suppose the alcohol had warmed him up...but I digress)...

I looked at my feet and was absolutely horrified. My heels were somewhat still colored...but every other part of my feet were white, white, in the blood sucked out of you, near-death white. Fearfully I started massaging my feet...my hands were warm and I had blood flowing through me...after 30 minutes of massaging...the blood slowly (and painfully) started seeping back in...

I put my socks back on, put my gloves on my feet over my socks, and wrapped my left foot in my scarf...and my right foot in my beanie.

I stared down at my feet. This, was what I had been reduced to.

The train finally started moving. I leaned back in my side of the booth and tried to rest a little...even though it would take a while for the place to heat up, the post-exercise warmth would keep me for some time, at least.

The two French guys had tried moving temporarily over to another compartment on the right...which they said was warm. In the restaurant car it seemed like things were starting to heat back up to a normal cold temperature...and everyone settled in again for the trip. I fell asleep for about five minutes.

And awoke to yelling.

Apparently the two French guys had been discovered sitting on the floor in the neighboring car...the controller (not Mr. Creepy)...had roughly told them they couldn't stay there because the customers there were paying a lot (altho, not at all as much as these guys ended up paying just to get one-way into Venice because of all the crap). The more brasher of the two guys had had enough. A French-Italian who is a Spanish professor. He started yelling at the controller...in Italian...then in Spanish--I recognized some of the cuss words he was using. An then they started to get physical...pushing each other, trying to punch each other.

The Argentinan man got up and started moving over there. The other French guy was trying to break them up...

The fight finally ended. I thought for sure they would both be kicked off the train...but, luckily they weren't. The Italian controller left, another female controller left with him...I believe her presence may have saved the two French guys...and we all leaned back in our booths once more.

"You need to take a fig from the tree of patience..." said the funny Italian woman.

"Perhaps I need to take a fig from the tree of patience...but they need to take from the tree of politeness...and there is an important degree of difference there, I think," he replied...To be treated comme de la merde (like shit) was unacceptable, shameful...it was a phrase I heard repeated many times throughout this night.

Finally, it was nearly 6 a.m....only about three more hellish hours left. Perhaps I would survive after all...

We all relaxed again for a little time. Though I was hungry, I was still so cold that I didn't feel the hunger as strongly as I would have otherwise...I suppose I should be thankful for that. However, my sweat had gone away...and now I was starting to shiver again...

An hour later, after talking in detail about the havoc the French guys would wreak on their travel agency when they got back home...) the workers came back into the restaurant, refreshed from their sleep...setting it up for breakfast. They only set up one half of the restaurant...we had defiled the other part, so it seemed.

The breakfast area set up, the controller made a happy announcement over the loudspeaker of the train: "Bonjourno! Good morning everyone...the breakfast is ready...I hope you've slept well!!! The breakfast is ready!!! Bon apetit!"

We all almost gagged at his excessive happiness through our sleep deprived, cold corner of the car.

The first couple of people started showing up...a little sleep tousled, but well rested. We wondered if they knew what hell we had been through. We doubted they even cared...as they indulgently smiled at their perfectly prepared breakfast trays. Their trip of leisure had been our trip of torture.

The breakfast was an expensive 7E, and though I was starving, I also did not want to give any of my money to the train. However, I was extremely dehydrated...I hadn't had anything to drink the entire night. The middle-aged man decided to get breakfast as did the funny Italian woman. She passed on her leftover food to the French guys, paying for their cup of coffee...and the middle-aged man gave me his cup of juice and his small croissant as well as paid for my hot chocolate.

We were, as he coined it, a group of adversity...

Finally the train arrived in Venice, finally we disembarked...I wanted to take a photo of our group, but I had no energy...we said our goodbyes, said we'd always remember the trip...had said we hoped to see each other again, in better circumstances.

I thought, perhaps, that was the end of my bad luck. The whole of my bad experiences for this trip...Or so I hoped. Who knew that more crap lay in wait for me, as it usually does, in Venice.

(to be continued...)

*refer to previous comments box
Note: Ending time, 4:19 p.m.

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