A train strike adventure for Chris

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The scene:*

Chris and his buddy Mike, sitting in the backseat of a stranger’s vehicle somewhere in Rome. The Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ in the USA” is blaring and the non-English-speaking driver is singing along. A fellow passenger and birthday twin, James from Liverpool, is joining in. James’ wife’s jacket, studded with spikes, is gouging Mike with every turn because they are crammed in so tightly in the backseat of the car.

How did they get here, we ask?

Train strike meets taxi strike plus soccer tickets = ingenuity.

As discussed here, we were in Rome to celebrate Chris’ birthday. I had bought him tickets to a Roma soccer football game, and we invited Mike to stay an extra night and go with him. The stadium was a bit of a trek from our neighborhood, so they left a good two hours early to give themselves plenty of time … and probably also to have drinks once they got there.

That extra time ended up being important, because once they arrived at the taxi stand near our apartment they were puzzled to find only three empty cars and zero drivers. During the previous day and a half, including our night out the day before, it had been bustling. They waited around for a while hoping someone would show up, but since neither was dressed appropriately for the weather they decided to step inside a nearby unofficial Roma shop and buy Mike a scarf and wait there for a bit. While inside, a helpful clerk informed them that there was a taxi strike and they wouldn’t be getting a ride that way, and told them how to get to the nearest metro station. A woman nearby was listening and told Chris that she and her partner were also trying to get to the game, and could they just follow them? Sure. Why not?

So then they got to the metro, which was strangely closed as well. Someone standing outside informs them that there is a metro strike right now.

Earlier in the day, we’d seen signs talking about how Uber was banned in Italy with fines of up to 500 euro, so they knew that was out. Google told them it would be something like an hour and a half to walk there. Also out of the question.

As is so often the case with travel, Chris and Mike determined that the best thing to do would be to try to throw money at the problem until it went away. There was a bar next to the shop, so in they went and Chris asked the barman whether he knew anyone they could pay to drive them to the game. Sure enough, he knew a guy. He called his friend to come over and a “quick” five minutes (read: 25 minutes) later, they were them were piling into the car with some guy who, it turned out, also worked for the bar. After they all huddled in the bar to quietly pay the man under the table, the five of them — Chris, Mike, the driver and the couple from Liverpool — were on their way.

Along the way, James volunteered that his wife (whose name escapes Chris) had bought him the tickets for the game as a birthday gift since his birthday was the next day. Same birthday, same gift. How weird is that?

The guys asked the driver to pick them up after, but he declined (possibly because he was a Lazio fan and it was a Roma game?!), so they arrived at the stadium with no particular plan for getting home. However, they decided that teaming up with the Liverpool couple for the trip home was the best way to go, so they exchanged numbers and made a plan to meet.

The seats we bought ended up being pretty decent! Roma won, 3-2

So afterward, the couple sent Chris a text letting him know they were heading to the meeting place. Naturally, Vodafone chose this moment to refuse to let him call or text unless he paid extra money, which he wasn’t sure how to do because all messages are in Italian and time was of the essence. They decided to just go to the meetup point, but as they walked outside there were three cabs, just sitting there. Apparently it was the world’s shortest strike?

This still left the problem of the Liverpool friends, however, so they decided to have the driver go to the meetup site so they could try to find them. And lo and behold, there they were, waiting on the sidewalk. The cab was actually a van, so when the driver pulled up in front of them they opened the sliding door and said — these are Chris’ words now — “ciaaaaaaaooooooooo” in “the world’s creepiest voice, like we were going to kidnap them or something.” Since they were freezing their butts off, the couple apparently decided to ride home with the creepers anyway.

*This post based on descriptions from Chris, as I was there for exactly none of us. Except for getting a play-by-play via text messages.

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