Because we can’t agree on the details of the morning, I am allowing Paul to comment on my report of the incident. His comments are in italics. (Thank you.)
We were at an Autostrada toll booth and it wasn’t going well. My heart was beating hard and fast, my face was hot, and I wanted to cry. (You cried during “Up”!) Even Paul was uncharacteristically agitated. (Was not.)
The automated ticket-taker refused to accept the ticket we’d picked up when we entered the Autostrada. So we couldn’t pay our toll, and the gate trapped us from the front and the growing line of frustrated motorists trapped us from behind. Whilst continuing to try to feed the ticket into the slot, Paul kept hitting the “for assistance” button. (I pressed it twice.) The disembodied voice kept telling us — none too helpfully — to insert the ticket.
Italian exuberance was on full display behind us. Horns honked and people yelled. Still, the machine refused to accept our ticket or our credit card. We would have paid anything at the point (would not), and the “for assistance” voice provided no assistance whatsoever. (What do you expect from someone small enough to fit inside a little ticket-taker?).
During the melee (it wasn’t that bad), Paul asked me for a pair of tweezers. TWEEZERS!?!! (God only knows what you carry in that knitting bag of yours.) On top of everything else, now the ticket-taker that wouldn’t take our ticket also had eaten our credit card and wouldn’t release it. (Okay, THAT was mildly unnerving.) Finally, he was able to pinch it out.
At long last and for no apparent reason, the machine spit out a long strip of paper and the gate finally rose, releasing us from our little hell. (Did you even notice that it also released the two cars behind us, who scooted through on our tail before the gate lowered again?)
The strip of paper was a bill for €58 (over $75, a little steep for having gone only 25 miles on the highway) and a long explanation about how we were being charged the largest amount possible (as a “penalty” no less) because we had failed (“refused”!) to present a ticket.
As bad as it was (it wasn’t that bad), Julie Andrews was right in “The Sound of Music” (never saw it) when, channeling Maria Von Trapp, she observed, “When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.” (Isn’t that a little overly dramatic?)
The window opened in Spoleto. There’s a happy ending to the story that I’ll write about very soon.