Sunday, November 8, 2009

Roma Coma: The Final Chapter

Other than the nights on the Via Veneto, my life was not working out well. My money was running out, my boss at Readak was pressuring me to start the course and apparently everyone in Italy except for me wore the same size pants.

I loved the school ... Marymount International Academy. It was a very exclusive Catholic school, located on the outskirts of Rome ... on the Via di Villa Lauchli. (How I remember that street name is beyond me ... I can't even remember what I had for breakfast ... I must be a "useless fact savant"). I remember having regular meetings with the headmistress. She was a Dutch nun who "kicked the habit" years ago. Try as I might ... I couldn't salvage the course. And in the end I had to refund the money and apologize. My luggage was still missing more than a month after I arrived and I had no teaching materials (books, tests, equipment, etc).

My Readak days were over. We parted ways over this last experience. They didn't want me to refund the money and I didn't want to keep it ... so I refunded the money and they refunded me. Actually, I refunded them ... but who's counting.

I stayed in Rome for another two months. I was a free man! No responsibilities, no job, no money ... but wait ... there WAS light at the end of the tunnel. On one of my daily visits to the train station ... I was greeted by an official with good news. These were words I never thought I would hear again ...

They had found my bags.

Excitedly, I was escorted to what appeared to be a gigantic lost and found room filled with every size and shape of luggage. It was dusty and damp ... cobwebs hung on some of the bags ... dust settled on others. Out of the dark, a man carried two bags and placed them at my feet.

The official (in broken English) "These YOU bags?"
Me (looking carefully at both) " The one on the right is .... the other one doesn't look familiar."
Official " These NO YOU bags?"
Me "THIS one is."
The official told another man ... "TAKE BAGS AWAY."
Me  "NO. I mean this one is mine."
Official "I thought these NO YOUR bags".
Me " Well the other one isn't mine ..." (he starts to take them both away again)
Me "WAIT. You know what I just realized? These ARE my bags. I just didn't recognize this one right away. " (I take them from him ... I knew if I didn't take both, I would get neither.)

He ushered me past a table of at least 10 officials with their own rubber stamps who had to decorate my passport and paperwork with different colors, I assume, before I could go home.

Once I was in my hotel room, I opened the mysterious bag ... I felt so guilty about it. It was neatly packed with clothing, a camera and two train tickets to Munich .... dated November 10, 1952. That's right 1952. And there were slides packed beneath ... old style glass slides of pictures of heart surgeries. The bag belonged to a doctor from Walter Reed Hospital who had apparently had a similar missing bag experience more than 25 years earlier!

So ... I called Walter Reed Hospital and asked for the doctor ... hoping he might still be there. He answered! And he was thrilled to hear from me. A week later, two marines showed up at my door, thanked me, took the suitcase and gave me a check for one million dollars!

Okay ... I lied.

There was only one marine.

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