Being in Italy has caused me to rethink my reaction to problems that accost us on a daily basis. Before leaving on this trip, if something went wrong, I would tighten up and lose my sense of humor, creating a concrete wall that was difficult to penetrate.
But I tasted a different way of responding when we picked up our rental car in Parma, the train station where we stopped after spending a week in Murano. From there we planned to drive to the house we had rented in the countryside on the outskirts of town. Earlier in the year, I had booked a car with Avis and had called on several occasions to confirm our reservations. Each time I called, no one seemed to have a record of my reservation, and I had to start all over again. Each time I was reassured that, yes, the reservation was good.
The night before we left Murano for Parma, I called Avis to reconfirm our reservation. The agent who answered had no record of it. Finally, he said that Budget, their sister rental car service, might know about it. So he passed me to someone in Budget. He was right. The woman who answered at Budget did have a record of the reservation. I asked for the address where we could pick up the car in Parma and wrote down a number that seemed to correspond with the train station address. Since we are American and accustomed to picking up cars at airports or train stations, that address made sense.
However, when we arrived in Parma, we discovered that not only were there no car rentals in the station, but Budget didn’t have a visible address nearby. Avis did. By now we were reeling with confusion. Budget was supposed to be our car rental, but it didn’t appear to have a Parma location. We had been told that Avis didn’t have a rental office in Parma, but when we walked out of the station, we saw a large Avis sign.
By then it was late afternoon. We were both hot and mad and worried that we wouldn’t get our car before the office closed 6 PM. After asking around, I learned that Avis did have an office about two blocks from the station. We wheeled our three bags there only to discover that it was already closed. I did notice three “emergency” numbers listed for people to call, so I tried them all. Finally, one responded, and a man who spoke broken English said he would pick us up in a few minutes and drive us to the REAL location.
Things were looking up. He arrived and piled our bags into his car. We ended up at an Avis office that was combined with a new car dealer on the outskirts of town. On the way, he told us he had three reservations for me. I thought he was joking, and we all had a big laugh. But he actually was correct. They did have three reservations under my name. Yet even though they acknowledged they did have reservations under Avis (not Budget!), they did not have the car I had requested, a Mercedes A180 (automatic transition).
Why am I telling you all of this? Because the guy who handled our reservation did not get bent out of shape by all of the confusion. He “went with the flow” as we Californians sometimes suggest but never actually do. He maintained a sense of humor and leavened our anger at the inconvenience we had experienced. Soon we were all laughing about the craziness of what had happened, and my husband and I drove off in our four-door Volkswagen hatchback with a triptych gearshift (I don’t even know what model it is), but later, when we read our contract, we discovered that the agent had written Fiat.
What we experienced with this Italian is something we’ve encountered repeatedly in Italy. Many Italians have the amazing ability to let these potentially upsetting instances roll off their backs. Such things aren’t important enough to cause us to ruin our days.
So the ability to shrug one’s shoulders and say “that’s life” will be an attitude my husband and I will try to continue back in the States. I just hope it sticks and also helps when my writing isn’t going well!