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Roma Coma Part 1

My time in Vienna seemed to speed by.

Rome was to be my next stop. I said my goodbyes to Karl ... Mr. Kindergarten movies, Bob Fumo ... big red beard with a laugh to match, Candy Stein (she was the lower school principal, from Ohio and not Jewish ... first Stein I ever met that wasn't). Candy told me to keep in touch and let her know if I ever wanted to take a more permanent position.

Little did I know then how important those words would become.

The train between Vienna and Rome had regular coach cars and special sleeping cars. The sleeping areas were called couchettes (a fancy name for solid boards covered with a blankets and stacked up in fours.) I sat in the regular coach with my bags until it got dark. One of the conductors told me to leave my bags at the spot that I was sitting and move to the cachette in the next car to get some sleep.

I said good night to my luggage ... I should have said goodbye.

The next morning my bags were gone. Worse still ... all the conductors were Italian and I had no idea what they were saying, nor could I communicate with them. Apparently, in the middle of the night we crossed into Italy and a new crew came on board. I asked what happened to my bags and no one seemed to pay any attention.

Now ... I must tell you ... there's a big difference between the Austrians and the Italians.

Ausrtrians are precise ... their trains are always on time and spotless. There are very clear business rules to follow and very little flexibility. Italians were ... well let's just say. I used to think Fellini movies were so exaggerated and bizaare that no one could possibly live like that. I was dead wrong. Italians have no rules. Their work style is ... socialize for an hour ... eat for two hours ... sleep for six hours and then work for 15 minutes. Yelling is a national pasttime.

Needless to say, I found out nothing about my bags until I got to Rome and begged the officials in the Dogana (Customs Office) to help me. Four days later they had a POSSIBLE answer (truth!). Apparently. someone sat in my seat over night and asked the (Italian) conductor to remove my bags because whoever owned the bags wasn't there and ... obviously ... just decided to leave the bags there in the way.

So ... the conductor threw my bags off the train somewhere between Vienna and Rome. My frustration had ONLY just begun.

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