Washing Away Sins at the Vatican

The beginning of April generally means lots of rain for much of North America. In Seattle, this late-winter stretch has delivered more precipitation than any time in the last 30 years.  Last week, my friend lamented in a Facebook posting, “Did I mention how much I dislike rain in January? Oh yeah, and February? And while I am at it, lets throw in March.” I, too, am yearning for warm, dry days and the daffodils that are beginning to sprout through the soaked earth.

As I pondered the flowers’ efforts to bring spring in the wet deluge, it reminded me of the last time I was drenched to the bone.  I was walking through the streets of Rome during a downpour on my way back from visiting the Sistine Chapel with Linda. Like any other big city in the rain, Roman cabs are hard to come by when the skies open up with water. Thus, I had an “opportunity” to see how many puddles I could hurdle in the ancient city. While I am not Catholic, the coincidence of visiting the Vatican followed by buckets of rain did make me wonder.

Linda and I had taken a year of Italian at a local community college as part of our trip plan. However, I did not prepare my packing list as thoroughly as my language skills. I hadn’t given much thought to rain in Rome; after all, I live in Seattle, where I have a closet filled with the latest water-resistant, water-repellant and water–resilient high-tech clothing and footwear.

When I eventually made it back to the rented apartment in Trastevere,  my jeans were completely saturated up to my thighs, my soaked socks were clinging to my freezing feet and my formerly comfortable black leather slides had a whole new look and feel. I was truly the bedraggled cat that got caught in the rain.

Linda let out a peel of laughter when she saw my sorry state and asked, “Did that happen on the way back?” I confessed that I had been walking around with my H2O suit of armor for at least four hours, but since it was our last day in Rome, I wanted to maximize sightseeing and had not wanted to interrupt the day for a change of clothes. Linda remarked that she, too, had been soaked to the gills for hours. We were fortunate that our travel styles were compatible.

Everyone’s willingness to put up with discomfort is different. Make sure that you and your travelling companion(s) are in sync with tolerance levels for hunger, heat, cold, activity and schedule.  Most travel mates do discuss budget expectations in advance, but rarely discuss creature-comfort needs. Nothing kills a vacation buzz–or a friendship–like someone chirping complaints if others prefer to forge onward.

Although we were not singing in the rain, Linda and I had the same expectations: we prioritized sight-seeing over dry clothes. We will soon travel together for another adventure, and next time I will pack my wet-weather arsenal.

Carol Lewis Gullstad, 4 April 2011

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