Italian Journey, Praiano to Naples (Day 4 of 4)

In Italy, there’s no such thing as truancy. If someone or something’s late it’s only because your expectations were too high.

On our last day, we had expected to get a bus from Praiano to Positano at 10:45 a.m., but it didn’t roll up until almost 11:30 a.m. Our plan had been to meet my sister and her husband for a little while before taking the next bus to Sorrento, but now we were so late, all we had time to do with them was walk down the hill to the bus stop. The bus there was scheduled to arrive at 12:30 p.m., and we got there with about ten minutes to spare. We waited. My sister and her husband waited with us. They had planned to see us off, but a half hour later, when the bus still hadn’t arrived, I told them not to worry about it. No need to waste their precious honeymoon time sitting at a bus stop. We said our goodbyes, and about fifteen minutes later our bus came tooling up. We got in, sat down. I noticed the digital clock next to the driver. It said it was 4:32 p.m. when it really was only 1:05 p.m. It was the second bus I’d been on on that trip that had a clock that was several hours off. There was something to be said for that attitude toward time. It was, after all, a human construct, and therefore open to interpretation. But we had a plane to catch, and a train to catch in order to catch the plane. The train was scheduled to leave Sorrento for Naples at 1:45 p.m. and there was no way we’d make that one now. We’d have to catch the next one which was scheduled to depart at 2:25 p.m.

Well, we arrived with plenty of time to spare for that one, but after boarding, the train just sat there in idle, brooding. It didn’t pull out of the station until close to 3 p.m. and by then we were seriously up tight about missing our flight, which was scheduled to depart from Naples at 5:15.

It was an old beast. A slow-moving beast. A crowded and airless and boiling hot beast, especially when it veered a little and the sun came through windows, pouring onto us.

It was a train straight out of Dante’s Inferno.

And every time it stopped at a station, there seemed to be a long delay, and you wondered if it was ever going to start up and get going again.
Then you’d hear a hum and a din and a roar. Then you’d hear the beep and the doors would close. Then there’d be another delay and you’d sit there with the sun burning the side of your face, your legs sweating on the leathery seat, your ears attuned to the incessant babble of Italian voices, your nose catching the occasional whiff of the grizzled old man in front of you, vapors rising off his skull.

It was 4:15 p.m. when we arrived at central station in Naples. We pushed through the crowds, made it outside and flagged down a cab. Our only chance to make our plane was to take a cab to the airport. We slid into the backseat and off we went, darting through the insane Neapolitan rush hour traffic, no one abiding to any law.

He turned around in his seat and started talking to us, gesticulating with both hands as he blew casually through red lights, dodged around corners and cut people off, missing them by mere fractions.

In Naples, it seems almost every car has a scrape or a dent or a ding on it. Some cars are riddled with them. His cab had a long scrape down the left side and the front bumper was partially crushed. Nevertheless, this modern-day Pulcinella got us to the airport without incident, a few minutes before our plane was scheduled to board. But that, of course, was before the delay.

The plane was apparently on Italian time too.

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11 thoughts on “Italian Journey, Praiano to Naples (Day 4 of 4)

  1. [I read this entry and then left the site and wrote the following reply without looking at the comments; then when I returned to post my words, I noticed that, in one of your own replies above, you used the identical phrase that I mention as the title of your poem — I just wanna note that I really did think of this on my own: I wasn’t prompted by your comment; that’s pure coincidence cuz great minds think alike!]
    Your prose has such a beautiful and easy flow. And this subject of cultural time-perception is enthralling. While reading, I kept thinking about the bus driver in your “German Punctuality” as a total contrast to this Italian lackadaisicality. Also of the “guy running/ alongside the bus” who appears in its final stanza, with “necktie streaming/ over his left shoulder, a briefcase banging/ against his leg,/ one arm frantically waving.” You also mention this very notion and talk about almost missing another bus in “A Trip to the Berlin Gemäldegalerie” (when I did an online search for the title of the first-mentioned poem so as to find its link, both pieces showed up, because that same phrase is used as a tag or ‘category’ on your blog here; that’s why I appear to be so well informed!) — I think those two titles make an enjoyable read, taken together with this four-piece “Italian Journey”. It makes me wish that we lived in the age of tracts and pamphlets, so that these few works could be issued as a fine little stand-alone publication. For I’m biased against the electronic screen and I think your own compositions are too good for the Internet. Nevertheless I’m thankful, because how else would I be able to read your work — I’d have to travel overseas and visit a newsstand in Berlin; and that would require leaving my living quarters. …But seriously, this meditation on cultures and time brought to mind a favorite passage from our man D.H. Lawrence; it occurs in “The Mozo”, the third essay from Mornings in Mexico — I like it because it rightfully shames me for being an overthinking time-mad worrywart:
    Tomorrow is always another day, and yesterday is part of the encircling never. Why think outside the moment? And inside the moment one does not think. So why pretend to think?
    In conclusion, I’m all for everything running late… as long as nobody misses their transport.

    • I meant to reply to this a month ago and have been feeling guilty ever since that didn’t. I also feel guilty that I’m that I’m so behind on your own site, tho I did see the link you recently posted to here and am thankful for that. Will start catching up now that I am back in Berlin for a while. I just got here yesterday from Florida and am wholly ready to begin cultivating my garden again.

      Anyway, I am more than surprised that you remembered my German Punctuality poem. I was going to post it as a link to this entry, but now that you have I don’t need to. Yes, you would never experience a bus driver like that in Italy. That type of creature is emetic only to the rain, the clouds, and the stubborn Teutonic soil.

      Love that DH. quote. I’ve wanted to read Mornings in Mexico for ages. Thanks for the little taste of it.

      • O never feel guilty about any of this online communication, especially if the frequency of response is slowed: that’s actually quite soothing, amid the too-rapid ephemerality of the rest of social networking. Whenever you’re absent, I always trust that you’ll eventually return. Flux never lets up, and everyone’s always at different stages of life, and some phases allow more free time for this electric correspondence; whereas during those periods of change that happen to us all, like in my own case the recent house deal & repairs (which I proudly leave unfinished to this moment), the online world is the first thing to get shelved: and that is proper, cuz this computer-hell sux! (Letting ‘FB’ stand for all these interfaces, I never tire of repeating: Love the people, hate the Facebook.) Yes, and double-especially allow yourself to feel guilt-free with regard to my own silly site: I keep bloating that diary only because writing is the sole activity that can alleviate my daily anxiety… thus I repeat: absolutely no worries!

      • Got it, thank you. One of the terrible and annoying things about being me is that all my life, at every given time, I have 5-10 people I know I need to write to or call, and really really want to, but I procrastinate, and then something else comes along to divert, and I end up feeling guilty about something I could’ve fixed, and still can fix in 3 minutes, but don’t. I blame my Irish ancestors. Remember Walter Shandy in Tristram Shandy and the door that needed oiling, a task he could’ve taken care of in a matter of seconds and he never would’ve thought of it again. Instead he let it go on squeaking for years, annoying him to death whenever he heard it, and still he refused to get off his ass to fix it. That pretty much sums me up.

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