When my father is out of his element, he pretty much acts like a 10 year old child with a credit card and a lot of cash. Based on the following stories from our recent cruise to Western Europe, I think you’ll agree that he is the funniest man in Europe.
Day One – Arriving in Venice (the first fiasco)
Having been to Venice before, I did all the research and told my dad where to book our hotel. I chose a small town just outside of Venice (literally a 5 minute train ride away) called Mestre. I even found a hotel in Mestre that was across the street from the train station. I told my dad not to rent a car. My dad, however, insisted on making the arrangements and renting a car. I figured it would be easier for him to learn from his mistakes than for me to argue with him. I had forgotten that I was traveling with him and my mom, so I too would have to suffer through his mistakes. At the end of the experience my dad said that he learned a lot and my response was “I learned that you should have taken my advice in the first place.”
The Rental Car
My dad, not being a very savvy traveler, forgot that European cars are way smaller than American ones. When he opened up the trunk, there was barely enough room for one suitcase. The other two suitcases and our carry-on luggage had to go into the back seat with my mom.
Also, the car was a stick shift, which my dad claims he knows how to drive. After seeing my dad drive this car, I began to realize that although he understands the concept of a manual transmission, he doesn’t really know what to do with that knowledge in a practical sense. As a passenger, I could feel the car losing power and knew it was time to shift gears and wondered why my dad wasn’t shifting. Perhaps my father was shifting the gear in his head while our car came to a complete stop when the engine turned off because my dad didn’t manually shift the gear in the world outside of his head. Also, when we got to the roundabouts, my dad somehow thought it was a good idea to make a complete stop once inside the roundabout. It would be an understatement to say that we were not popular in Italy when my dad was driving.
The Hotel / Apartment
Instead of taking my advice, my dad chose to book us a hotel apartment in a town about 15 km northeast of Venice. After picking up the rental car at the airport, my dad asked me to navigate his way to our hotel in Quatro d’Altino. None of his directions were helpful. Completely jet lagged, we were lost on the roads of Italy as cars were tailgating us and dangerously passing us on one-way roads because my dad was driving like a blind grandmother according to Italian standards of driving.
When we finally found the hotel, there was no front desk and no way to get into the apartment. We went to a nearby hotel where the male clerk said “I don’t work for that hotel. What do you expect me to do?” Thankfully, the female clerk took pity on us and called the contact number my dad had in his email. After getting off the phone, she informed my dad that since we had booked an apartment, he needed to contact the apartment manager and arrange a meeting time. The manager was on her way and could meet us in 45 minutes.
We had just flown 15 hours to get to Venice. We were exhausted. My mom and I were incredibly pissed off. It started to rain. My dad waited outside of the apartment for the manager to show up. Forty-five minutes later, she finally came and let us into our room.
A nice meal at the local restaurant in town saved my father’s life. I was so annoyed with our arrival day and all the fiascos we endured, I told my dad I would have killed him with my bare hands, if on top of everything, our dinner was bad. Thankfully, the food was amazing and my father still lives.
Shopping at the local market
My dad did make one trip to the nearby grocery store on his own to buy some things. During this entire trip, I had to do all the talking for all of us in Italy, Spain and France. This was his one interaction with the natives in Italy. My dad was trying to buy shower gel but couldn’t read Italian. He flagged down a stockboy and asked him if he spoke English. The kid did not speak English, so my dad proceeded to mime taking a shower and lathering up with imaginary shower gel while making the sound of running water with his mouth. I don’t know if the kid laughed or was too stunned, but it did turn out to be shower gel.
My dad also bought a kilo of oranges. As he peeled them on our balcony, he said “These oranges are strange!” The flesh was both red and orange inside and that’s when I told my dad he bought 2 1/2 pounds of blood oranges.
Waving to Italian Strangers
After spending a day in Venice, we piled back into our rental car which was parked at the train station and were headed home. A tall man waved at my father as we were driving down the street. My father waved back and then slammed on the brakes. I scolded him and told him to keep driving. I asked him why he was first, waving at a stranger and second, why he was stopping. My father said that maybe the guy needed help. I reminded my dad that 1) he doesn’t speak Italian and 2) in this country, my father can’t even help himself, so how can he assist someone else? I also reminded him that if he were driving in Los Angeles, he would never wave at a stranger let alone stop the car. I couldn’t wait to get back into our hotel apartment where, within the confines of our room, my father wouldn’t have any opportunity to invite Italian strangers into our lives.
My father’s response to all of this? “I think that went well. You know, I could live here for a month.”