Every once in a while, parents forget how old their children truly are and all the times they’ve proven themselves responsible. After being denied the chance to experience a dance club in Florence or even a small pub in a Tuscan hill town, my brother, his wife and I (ages 27, 28 and 22 respectively) decided to embark on a side trip to the Eternal City for the weekend. It’s not to say my parents are hard to travel with. There’s just an unexplainable thrill in doing what would make your mother sweat a little. Ian, Allison and I walked only a few blocks down Via Cavour from the train station before deciding Vespas were essential. Scooting past the Coliseum, it was clear that this is the way to experience Rome. With one day in a city as tremendous as Rome, the only thing that beats the luxury of time with these buildings is flying past them, seeing them all within minutes, and knowing you’re joining the likes of Audrey Hepburn by partaking in this hair-rustling, tire-squealing activity.
We came all the way to Rome without hotel accommodations [on a Saturday night], so we parked, ordered beers at an alley eatery, and skimmed the guidebook for suggestions. Ian volunteered to scoot to the Colors Hotel by the Vatican in order to book our room, but when he didn’t return in an hour, we began twiddling our thumbs anxiously. I sat staring into the darkness of the summer dusk, realizing only after some time that Ian’s silhouette stood in front of me, his massive Marvin the Martian helmet sitting askew on his head.
When it began raining an hour earlier, the cobblestone streets became slick as ice, making it impossible for Ian to maneuver the scooter safely. Squeezing the brakes to avoid getting smacked by a bus, he flew over the handle bars and sprawled in the middle of a busy road flanking the Tiber River. The Lonely Planet Italy book he had between his feet, propped open by his alien toes, caught some incredible air and landed some yards away. The broken brake sliced a life line across his dirty palm. Buses and cars honking for Ian to fix his predicament, he scrambled to gather the guidebook and his unstrapped helmet (which flew off the other direction) only to forget that scooters don’t work like wave runners. He grabbed the throttle and twisted before his body sat atop the vehicle. Ian flew over the handle bars a second time, his bruises now certain to turn the color of the cobblestones.
At that moment when Ian appeared out of the midnight blue evening, I began laughing. His drenched clothing, the “I did something bad” childlike look on his face, his inability to sit normally on his now sensitive derriere, the entire retelling of his scooter incident, it all caused me some very happy crocodile tears. Not that I’m malicious towards my family members. For decades, I’ve loved finding the humor in my brother’s slapstick moments. Once dinner concluded and we successfully relocated to our hotel room without injury, we dedicated the night to numbing Ian’s travel wounds with Irish lager.
The next morning, Via del Corso, the Pantheon, the Piazza della Venezia...all at a speed of about 5 mph in the misty patches of rain. And then the Piazza Navona, where we witnessed in real life and time the 17th century rivalry between Bramante and Bernini. We returned the scooters, after I schmoozed with the local police to let us down a closed street, to find a nearby pub broadcasting the Roma-Catania final playoff game for the Schudetto. Unfortunately, a tie left the Roman fans unenthusiastic, and the bar cleaned out, that is except for three Americans, three Brits, and an odd Ukranian. Ian began the bonding over soccer, an experience he doesn't often get in America, and Allison was intrigued by the Ukranian's perception of America, his own life, and gypsies, of course.
Mom found out 16 months later our seemingly pleasant scooter experience in Rome was actually riddled with moments that would have made her gasp and squeal. Had we told her upon returning to our vacation rental outside of Florence, it would have been proof her worries were legitimate and we weren’t as responsible as we posed. Luckily, after 16 months time, she’d completely forgotten all the warnings she gave us for riding scooters, the “I told you so” reprimand completely avoided. Even in your twenties, it still feels rewarding to get away with a dangerously good time without getting your nose rubbed in it by your mother.