09 December 2012

LIFE: Travels With Ginny

SARONNO, Italy – My cousin Ginny called the other day. I haven’t talked with her in a while and just hearing her voice made me realize how much I have missed her. We’ve had some good times together, traveling around, getting into trouble, getting out of trouble and laughing all the way. What I’ve posted today is a true tale of just one adventure in my travels with Ginny.  I hope you enjoy it.
 Place Rossetti, Nice, France
 Travels with Ginny - The Foot
THE date 16 August,1999 is burned on my brain. It is the day my cousin Ginny and I were crossing rue Hotel du Poste in Nice, France when I fell and twisted my ankle. As even in tragedies there are bits of fortune, mine was that we were not far from the Lady of the Rocks Hospital, which is where I ended up.   
            I had never been in an emergency room anywhere, and my experience with such things is limited to watching ER on television. Needless to say reality is quite different from the fictionalized version. No George Clooney for one. Yes there are doctors walking around, pouty French film types, but in my opinion the entire department needs to have its blood pressure checked. If things moved any slower we would be at STOP. I want sirens to go off, or at the very least a few bells and whistles, some signal that emergencies are coming in and need to be treated, but the aura of calm is overwhelming.
Most of the emergencies appear to be motor scooter accidents. One young man they roll in is covered with twigs and branches, his face is scratched and bleeding and his jacket is a mess. He looks as if he has been launched head first into a very large bush. Then there are the old people who have apparently wandered away from where they were, forgot where they were going, and now can't remember where they came from. The woman on the gurney next to me is clutching three purses: a gold lamè evening bag, a large cloth bag with a zippered closing, and a beige plether bag with a long strap. She also has a jacket with her even though it is in the mid 90’s and the humidity is high. She is obviously a woman who prepares for every occasion.
 Then they wheel me into a hallway and leave me there.  After a while, two hours to be exact, a doctor stops by, wiggles my foot and sends me to x-ray. The bad news is that I have indeed broken a very, very small bone in my foot. A teeny tiny bone.A bone so insignificant that there isn't even a name for it.
             Off to the cast department.
"Ooo la la, vat 'ave vee 'ere?" asks the round and jolly cast person. Put your foot up like dees, ho kay? First we put this beige sock with no toes, then this bright green bandage, ho kay?  Hold eet,” she says as she goes round and round with the bright green bandage, right up to my knee. 
“It’s too tight”, I wail.
“No, no, it's not too tight, it is just right."
As the green bandage hardens into stone, my toes begin to puff up like blue Christmas tree ornaments.
"Now, we wrap eet all up with this beige and blue stripe bandage, and voila! a little tape to finish the package and eet is done!"
            I hate it immediately. It is hot. It is heavy. I feel as if a God in some far off place in the universe wants to know more about the migratory patterns of ex-pats in Italy, and had me grabbed and tagged.  Get this thing off my leg.
            “We have to go home,” I say to Ginny.   
            The next day, suitcases, green cast on my leg and shiny new crutches tucked under my arm, we take a taxi to the Nice train station.
            "Go to the tourist information office and ask them were we can get a wheel chair,” I say to her. “There's no way I can hop up and down the stairs to the tracks on crutches."
            So she does. The Tourist Information people send her to the Accuiel (Welcome) desk. The Accuiel desk sends her to another Accuiel desk. The second Accuiel desk sends her to yet another Accuiel desk, and when she finds herself in front of the Accuiel desk she had started from, she throws up her hands in true Italian fashion and says Basta. Enough.
In the meantime I was holding court with a family from Montana who had never been to Europe before and were wondering how come there are no bugs or flies here. Ginny finally comes back with a strapping young Frenchman and a wheelchair. Ahhhh. Success. Off we go, he pushing me, and poor cousin Ginny toting all the baggage like a weary train station bell cap in an old Hollywood movie.
"You go down the stairs," the Frenchman says to Ginny "and I'll meet you on the other side of the track and help you put the luggage on the train."
Ginny takes one look at the stairs, one look at the luggage, and opts to go with us, after all there must surely be an elevator somewhere. But no, instead we head for the very end of the train platform where the Frenchman proceeds to push me across the tracks, clutching my crutches in my arms like a shield. Just the thing to fend off a high speed TVG train that I'm convinced is going to come racing around the corner at any minute.
"Stop" I yell, "Help", as images flash through my mind of my much loved and carefully cared for body parts splattering from one end of the station to the other. I look over and see poor Ginny, loaded down like an Mongolian packer crossing the Himalayas following the best she can, bent over under the load, bags and suitcases swaying to and fro. 
Finally settled on the train I ask the Italian conductor to arrange for a wheel chair when we get to Milan. "No problem," he says, "I'm getting off in Genoa so when the next conductor comes on, just remind him.". 
When we arrive in Genoa and the new conductor comes on, I do.
"Signora, Signora, Signora," he clucks. "It is all taken care of." 
Fifteen minutes later he’s  back. "My colleagues in Milan want to know your name."
"My name? Are they afraid they won't recognize the person with the bright green cast on her leg carrying crutches as the one who needs a wheel chair?"
"Don't ask," he says.
I give him my Italian Identity Card and he reads my name into his cell phone. “Thank goodness you have an Italian name,” he says, “if you were German or Swedish they would have hung up on me.”
Once home, I'm stir crazy before the door closes behind me. Ginny was leaving soon to go back to the States so she spends the next couple of days running back and forth to the grocery store stocking my cupboard with stuff like tuna fish, pasta, frozen veggies and water. 
"That's what Nonna did during the War,” I tell her. "Stock up on stuff”.
Banal conversation. What I really want to know is if the lust of my life, the dairy department stocker at the GS grocery store is cheating on me and staring at her like he stares at me.  I finally get up the nerve to ask.
"I don't think so," she says. "Nobody stared at me."
Good thing, I thought, because she's a lot cuter than I am.
On my own after Ginny leaves, I rent a wheel chair. The elevator in the apartment building is a tiny little thing, so I have to shoehorn the wheel chair into it, and then squeeze my self in as well. But that turns out to be the least of my problems. Once on the street I can't get the chair to go straight. It wants to veer to the right. And while my street has wheel chair access, motorists use them as access driveways to park on the sidewalk so they are crumbled and broken up, which means that once I get the chair down into the street, I  can't get back up to the sidewalk. It is a nightmare. 
 The cast is making me crazy. I hate it with all my heart. I am afraid to go to sleep at night for fear it is cutting off my circulation and a blood clot is forming and speeding straight for my brain and I am convinced I am going to wake up dead. I decide to call Francesco, an orthopedic surgeon I know, and ask if he would please come over and take a look at the x-rays and take the cast off, for surely it is not an absolute necessity.
He comes over that same night. The cast has to stay.
How long, I want to know.
Six weeks.
Six weeks! No relief from this hot itchy thing until October? It’s inhumane. It’s excessive cruelty. It’s against every international law on the books, it’s even against the Geneva Convention I whine.
"Phyllis, Phyllis, Phyllis, you are the worst patient I have ever met," he says shaking his head as he walks out the door. 
In the end, an exhausted Ginny was happy to get home and I managed to survive. Since then Ginny and I have gone on to many other adventures, like the time we almost got washed overboard on a boat trip to the Cinque Terre. But never mind, that's another story for another day. Besides, from the conversation we had yesterday, I have a feeling there are more adventures in our future, and I for one can't wait.

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