Back when Sweet Girl was just a young 'un, she and I went to Italy to see my niece and her then-husband, who was in the Army and stationed there. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I am grateful that we had the chance to go. We went up into Germany and camped at an army post there, stopping in Innsbruck along the way.
[Side note: In a parent-teacher conference that fall, Sweet Girl's teacher, fairly new to the profession, smiled at me sympathetically and said, "Sweet Girl told her little classmates that she went to Italy this summer." She was more than a little embarrassed when I confirmed the "tale" as true.]
There are a gazillion things about that trip I can write about, even today. Watching my niece's husband almost arrest someone. The city we built out of tarps on our rainy camping trip. The Austrian people staring at the stupid Americans who were wearing shorts and t-shirts on a rainy July day when temperatures were somewhere in the 40's. [We couldn't help it. It was SUMMER when we left Italy that morning!]
What I often remember when I think about that trip, however, are the three occasions on which I became trapped.
My niece and her husband lived in army housing for married folks. They didn't have children at the time, so Sweet Girl and I stayed in their spare bedroom. The first morning I woke up there, I had no idea what time it was. I didn't have my watch, it was before the days of the cellphone-attached-to-one's-hip, and the bedroom didn't have a clock in it. I had no idea if it were a decent hour to get up or not, but I desperately needed to go to the bathroom. I went to the door and tried to open it quietly.
The doorknob came off in my hand.
I had a dilemma. Because I didn't know what time it was, I didn't want to shout and wake anyone up. If I ignored my bladder and went back to bed, I knew my niece wouldn't wake us up because of the long flight and the time difference.
Because I had a young child on a transatlantic voyage, I had plenty of writing/drawing supplies in our luggage. I found a piece of paper and a crayon and wrote something about being trapped in that room. There was a huge fan blowing in the hall, so I couldn't just slip the note under the door without it being blown away. I found some quarters in my purse and used them as weights, then I slid the whole contraption under the door. I didn't have to worry about knowing if my niece had found it or not - in just a little while I heard her burst out laughing, and she came to rescue me. I don't think I closed that door again for the rest of our stay.
We took the train down to Pisa and Florence. Because Sweet Girl wasn't old enough to appreciate culture and the museums and my niece had already seen them, they went to the beach while my niece's husband and I went on to Florence. When we got there, for some reason we couldn't open the door of the train. We could open the one on the OTHER side, but the jump was about six feet. And we would have been on the wrong side of the tracks. Literally. A conductor finally came and rescued us, and I realize this story has nowhere near the flavor of the first one. Sorry about that.
In one of the museums, I went to the restroom. It was a unisex facility, and amazingly enough there wasn't a line for it. I went in and did what one normally does in a restroom, and I started out. The door wouldn't open. I turned it to the right. It wouldn't budge. I turned it to the left. Same result. Back and forth. Back and forth. The walls began to close in on me, and that restroom was suddenly a very small, dimly lit, airless place. I began to panic, sweat pouring down my back. Click. Click. I'm trapped in a bathroom in a museum in Florence in Italy in Europe. Click. Click. I knew only two words in Italian, "ciao" and "birra." Neither one of them would help me get sprung from a bathroom.
Finally I heard a voice speaking through the door, the familiar voice of my niece's husband.
"Turn it to the left," he said.
"Turn it to the left AGAIN."
Oh. I didn't realize that was how their doors locked. Turn it once to close it; turn it further in the same direction to lock it. Or double lock it. Or something.
My relief turned to humiliation when I walked out of the bathroom and discovered that NOW there WAS a line for that bathroom. Every single one of them waiting for me to be rescued. They may have applauded when I walked out, I'm not sure. I just know I wanted to crawl under the Statue of David and die.
Never mind a language barrier. I couldn't even handle the doors.