Off The Road

My boyfriend and I planned to leave Rome at 7 a.m. so we could meet my parents for dinner in Annecy – a French mountain town built around Europe’s purest waters. Julian spontaneously sat behind the steering wheel, expecting me to act as his co-pilot. That was a serious problem to begin with since - though I had followed this route for more than twenty-two years - I had (and still have) no clue how to catch the A1 highway…
When - one hour later - we found ourselves in a cul-de-sac before a private property of Viterbo village, and the GPS insisted we had to take a left, my sweet Quebecer lost it: he knocked out the navigation screen, having it land straight on my bare feet.
‘Sorry darling, I really needed it to shut the fuck up!’ I bit my lips not to laugh, and soon hid beneath a huge road map.
Around 9.30 a.m.[1], we finally were on the goddam Roma-Firenze, and for about two hours, we enjoyed our road trip:
♫ Myyyyy eeeeeyes aaaaare greeeeen ♫ Erykah Badu sang for us.
♫ Coz I eat a lot of vegetables ♫ we joined her all along olive trees and cypresses…we looked cool with our sunglasses, you know? That until the engine of our Mini Cooper began to sound unusually loud.
‘We got to stop.’ His voice was tight.
At the next AGIP station, the car breathed heavily and collapsed. I dashed inside the convenience store to call out for help, but the mechanic was already gone. I tried using my cell phone, but my TIM network was blocked for the day in that particular area of the Italian peninsula.
'Where are we?’ I questioned aloud.
‘Montepulciano.’ The vendor replied with a delicious Tuscan accent. She offered me a phone. I dialed the towing services' number, and as I was already weeping over the disappointment of our trip (and the astronomical amounts of cash we would have to spend to return to the capital), I saw the Mini drive around the parking lot. What the hell?
‘Jump in!’ my man shouted ‘I can’t brake!’
I rushed inside the car and, 20 meters further, it passed out AGAIN in front of a garage.
Without even revising it, the mechanic told us we had mistaken Diesel for Senza Piombo gasoline. When I dared say this was certainly not the case [2], he rudely moved on to his lunch break. After all, it was August 1st at 12 p.m. in Italy...we shrugged and chose to calm our nerves with a fresh Pago juice. The bartender overheard our talks, and suggested we have a word with her brother.
‘Franco!’ She called. A tall man looked up as she pointed at us.
‘Fuori!’ She added whispering, tilting her hand up towards the exit. There were cameras inside, capito? We got it.
Franco opened the glass door-window for us. Curious, we stepped out, and he indicated a much better place only a few meters above.
We somehow managed to drive the bit required, and over the closed garage a sign read “on lunch break!”. Increasingly discouraged, we sat on the tarmac, wondering whether we would ever reach Annecy or not.
At 3 p.m.[3], a curly brown-haired guy in a bright blue overall appeared. Stefano: double the size of his scooter! He unlocked his garage, opened our sick car, connected it to a computer, and rapidly diagnosed a broken screw on the third spark plug.
‘In 20 years of profession, I have never seen such a thing!’ He was exited in Italian. ‘Mai!’ he repeated. Never? We both stood behind him, unsure how to react.
Four hours later - after he’d sent his father, brother, cousin on a mission around Tuscany - he replaced the damage, and we all celebrated with red wine and goat cheese!
At 2 a.m., radars flashed us speeding through the Mont Blanc tunnel. We no longer cared: we had made it!
N.B: The rest of our exceptional journey included a 2000€ fine and license suspension threat near Paris; a Golden Retriever vomiting seawater IN the gearbox in Rennes [4], and the demolition of the fender against one of St Malot’s sidewalks. Thanks very much!

[1] One hour and forty-five minutes later than planned.
[2] We had already gone over that mistake…
[3] That is: 3 hours later!
[4] Dear family, if you happen to read this: it is the awful truth. I’m sorry.

J Beretta

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