Monday, May 11, 2009

The Thieves of Rome

This will be my final installment of my "first trip to Italy" story. I hope it was amusing for you. Not really.

I just got my plane tickets. I'll be leaving again next Monday. We found our problem. It was a defective board in the PC. A bad lot of boards from the manufacturer and we got two from the same lot installed in Italy. It'll more than likely be a 15 minute fix. However, having been optimistic before and disappointed I am choosing not to mention it.

I don't like getting ripped off. It pisses me off. People in Rome need to do something about this. It's ironic that the Vatican is in Rome and it's also in Rome where I was ripped off once and the attempt was made again the next day. 39 is the magic number.

After my horrifying 5 hour train ride with the Talkative Australian, I was ready to get to my hotel and put my bags away so I could walk around Rome a bit before I went to bed. It was getting close to 19:00.

We left the train and made our way to the line of Taxi's. The Talkative Australian had warned me about the cabs in Rome. I thought I was following her instructions rather well. I looked for the "badged" drivers. When we got in the cab, my colleague reminded them to turn on the meter.

The problem here is that they either don't speak much English or pretend not to. As soon as we got in the cab I was worried because the guy we were talking to got in the rider's seat with a "I am training" excuse. I couldn't see the meter, but they said it was on.

Now, at this point what do you do? It's your first time in Rome. You don't speak the language. You don't have any bearings about where you are or where you are going. You've been told the hotel is about 3 kilometers away, but it's easier to take the cab. Your bags are already loaded in the back of the cab. The doors are closed and you are moving.

Different thoughts were going through my head, but I was feeling rather trapped. Finally we stopped across the street from the hotel. "Your hotel is right there," the passenger thief said. "There is no chance for us to get to that side of the street. That'll be 39 euro".

I've taken lots of cab rides. Some longer than others. My first trip to The Netherlands I took a ride from the airport to my downtown hotel and it cost about $50. With exchange rates 39 euro is about $50. The ride in Amsterdam was about a 40 minute ride. The ride from the train station in Rome was about 5 minutes.

Normally, in Germany, this type ride would cost about 7 euro. I knew he was overcharging me so at this point it's a matter of how much do I want to spend to avoid a confrontation. I don't know where the police are. I don't speak the language so I can't subtly dispute his intelligence like I'd do here.

My colleague gave him 30 euro which emptied his wallet. Then he looked at me for the rest. I said, "Here give me the 10 back all I have is a 20." I took the 10 and handed him a 5 and started walking.

He stopped me and shook the 5 euro in my face. I took the 5 back and handed him the 10 back. He backed off. I was pissed.

The next day, there was a 4 hour line getting into the Vatican. I'm not much on Catholic stuff anyway so it didn't bother me too much. I certainly didn't want to stand in line for 4 hours. A guy came by and was looking for "English speaking people" for a special tour of the Vatican without standing in line. The cost? 39 euro. I left.

I have a few pictures that I took on my website. My camera was being a bit flaky so I missed some pictures and some are a little out of focus. If you look hard you can spot a thong sitting in front of a church. The website also times out sometimes. If you get an error, just reload. So far it's always worked for me the 2nd time around. I'm too lazy to fix it.

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