Roman Holiday: Hold On To Your Passport!

Last night, Heidi and I went on an Eating Italy tour.  It was incredible. But what stands out as truly amazing was a hero we encountered on our way.

We have been taking the Metro quite often to get around Rome. There is a week long pass that makes it very affordable.

We have found it to be an easy and pleasant way to travel.  After our maiden voyage, that is. Where we got the kinks out.

Like thinking Uscita was a stop (not the word for exit).

And spending 17 minutes trying to buy a ticket from the machine (it has limited change and will keep ejecting your bill if it is too large).

Yesterday, however, was our first time through the Termini station. It is the largest in Rome and where the A and B line meet. Heidi and I knew to be extra cautious because this is where most thefts occur.

The transfer was easy breezy, as the signs were clearly marked in English. We were prepared to box out in order to get on the train but the platform was not crowded and we both remarked on how empty the train was. Maybe 20 people to the average 50. Okay, my math might be off but you get my drift.

Anyway,  we enter. Heidi takes a seat by the door and I stand next to her. There is a small group of 6 college students surrounding the pole next to us. They were American and very young. The train takes off and this blond girl, we shall call her Bambi, proceeds to fall into me. Repeatedly. Because she is not holding on to anything. It happens once. Twice.

On the third, maybe fourth time, I brace my arm (concert style) to keep her from hitting me again  and she collides with my forearm pretty hard. She turns around and looks at me with doe eyes.

I feel a little guilty but this act is getting old fast.

Subway 101. Hold on.

Next thing I know, a very tall, very handsome, very fit man in a tangerine v-neck burst past me and starts yelling at a young teenage girl facing the door. I had not even noticed her. She is by herself, tucked in the corner where the door opens, staring out the window. He is shouting in Italian and I think he says the world bracelet.

I’m confused and look at Heidi.

He starts digging at her pockets. Grabbing her sleeves. Searching for something. All the while yelling in Italian. Relentless. Forceful. Heroic.

The girl never turns around but all the sudden there is a passport in the clearing by my feet.

I don’t see it fall but we all kind of realize it together. He takes a few more seconds where I hear the essence of “shame on you” repeated quite a few times in loud Italian. He then hands the fallen passport to Bambi (who has yet to hold on) and walks back across the car.

I am stunned.

It all happened so fast and the only thing that comes to mind is to say, “Thank you! Grazie!” Repeatedly.

Bambi finally joins in.

But he has already gone back to his spot, earbuds still intact, and is looking nonchalantly out the window.

Sweet little Bambi turns around looking like a deer in headlights. I mean, she was so out of it, it was like she was drugged. But I think it may have been shock.

I look down and she is clutching a tiny little box purse to her chest. The kind with the snap that is impossible to close and keeps popping open. Leather. Made in Mexico. Purse in one hand. Passport still out in the other. It is clear she had no idea that she had been robbed and was having a hard time processing what just happened.

Heidi observed that her friends were no help.

The three guy just watched the whole thing unfold and did not respond the way I would have expected. The whole group seemed non-plussed, including Bambi.

She kind of laughed when her friends asked if she realized it was gone.

I don’t know. I just keep getting bumped around. She put the previously stolen passport  back in her tiny, easily opened, impractical purse. And just stood there.

I wanted to shout THAT WAS YOUR PASSPORT!!!

Instead, in a very sisterly tone, I stated, “Honey, you need to put that somewhere safe. You need that to get home.….. And hold on to the bar.”

The teenage girl got off at the next stop.

Heidi and I could not help but wonder what in her life had led her to thievery. How had she ended up, skulking around the bowels of Rome, stealing passports from unsuspecting college students?

My heart breaks for her. Because in a million years, no child chooses that life. They may convince themselves they do, but obviously someone holds power over this young girl. And she feels she has no other option.

As far as Bambi, I wish I felt more sympathy for her. But I don’t. I wonder what caring adult let her travel unprepared to Europe.

As far as The Man in the Tangerine V-Neck.

Thank you. You are a hero. Noble. Chivalrous. Brave. You had nothing to gain from that encounter but you were willing to do what was right. Because it was right.

And to paraphrase the words of  Dr. Sheldon Cooper, “Well done, Man in the Tangerine V-neck.The true hero doesn’t seek adulation, he fights for right and justice simply because it’s his nature.”

If I were a minstrel, I would write a song about you.

All together, Heidi and I have been amazed by how safe we have felt in Rome. It has not been as shifty or intense as we were expecting. Maybe that is because we have worked hard at being wise, cautious and thoughtful about our safety.

And of course, we have big angels.

Love, Love, Love from Rome!

The Girl Who Lives in My Head