“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

The Plan: A Train Ride to Innsbruck

The plan was this: Since Munich’s Bahnhof, train station, was only two blocks from the Kings Center Hotel where we were staying, we would walk, which would coincide with check-out time and give us plenty of time to figure out the train logistics; we would meet Susan there at the station, as she would take the subway from the airport to the train station a little after 11 a.m.; we would rail to Innsbruck, meet Roland in person (for the first time), pick up the rented car we reserved months ago, and follow Roland on the autobahn over the Brenner Pass and into Italy to the Sterzing-Vipiteno exit. We’d turn right at Sterzing (coming from the Pass), and, if I was reading the maps correctly, it’s a short ride to our ultimate destination, the Sonklar hotel in the Ridnaun-Ridanna Valley. Simple.
 
Except when it’s not.
 
No way we could walk to the Bahnhof from the hotel with all the luggage, get everything up stairs, wander into shops to pass time, and get past whatever other barrier there might be. Then, “tweet,” a text from Susan landed on my phone. Problems with her flight from the U.S. and then the layover in Frankfurt wiped out any chance of getting to the train station in time to meet the 2 p.m. trip we had tickets for.
 
Great. Except when it’s not.
 
Suddenly it was time to punch either the Panic or the Flexibility button. I hit the Panic button. I, a 71-year-old grandmother, decided to sit down on the edge of the bed and cry, a wonderful example for my granddaughter.
 
Don’t even think about it.  I told Joanna Leigh we would go down to the desk and get help with these problems. I shot Susan a quick text, saying (ha ha ha) “sit tight. I’ll figure this out.”
 
Two incidents helped me out. First, the staff at this small hotel knew us; they had already solved a couple of things for me. Second, (and it will be hard to admit what I’m about to confess) thinking that this small hotel wouldn’t have a hair dryer, I had stopped at a local beauty salon, where no one spoke English and somehow made them understand I needed a hair dryer. The young woman nodded yes, she understood. She and an older woman went back to a storage room and came out with a new unopened hair dryer. I was delighted when she said 18 Euros.
 
She shook her head and wrote down the price on a piece of paper: 80 Euros. I nearly fainted, but I was in a bind. I paid. Please don’t do the conversion. It’s disgusting. When we checked into the hotel, there was a hair dryer. Feeling completely stupid, I took it down to the desk and gave it to the man in charge; he said, with a wide grin, his wife needed a new dryer.
 
Great.
 
I explained our plight and he said, “I will call you a taxi to take you to the Bahnhof.”
 
I protested that the driver might get angry over a two-block trip. He said, “No, it’s his job. Don’t worry.”
 
Then he brought up on the computer the train schedules to Innsbruck. There were plenty of choices. I texted Susan with times and said that we’d go on but wait for her in Innsbruck at the train platform. She was pretty grumpy. My nerves were hanging out.
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I tipped the taxi driver adequately, as indicated by his behavior, not his English, and we went to find the right platform. At the platform, we walked up and down looking for the right car. Joanna Leigh pulled her carry on and took turns helping me with mine. The “monster” piece, the largest one in a set, was the problem. I wondered if I could get it on the train and put it somewhere on the floor, as I wouldn’t be able to put it on any overhead spot.


 In the King Center Hotel waiting on the taxi that would take us to the train.
That’s the Kings Center bear on my shoulder.
 
 We got on a car that had seat numbers 25 and 26, as printed on our tickets. One person offered help with the “monster,” and I accepted. We plopped down in our seats and a nice young man helped with the overhead pieces. The Age Card wasn’t necessary; it’s obvious. Sometimes it takes getting out of your element and environment to see the truth of a thing. No one was going to take me for a 55- or 60-year-old anymore. I’m an old grandmother and I look it. “Accept the help graciously and get over yourself,” I thought to myself.

 
A lovely family got on as the train was filling up – a pretty mother and two cute children. She came up to me and indicated we were in their seats. Again, no English, but it became clear to me somehow that she must be right; it became clear to her that I had no idea what to do about it, as both our sets of tickets said #25 and #26. By then the train began pulling out. I looked up, looked toward the door and the space between cars. I looked pitiful. She indicated “never mind.” She sat down with her little boy, about 5, in her lap and her daughter in the second seat. Speaking in a kind of sign language, we learned that our girls were both seven. By now the train had picked up speed and the ticket-checker came into our car. I said, “I think we’re in the wrong seats.”
 
He said, “No, you’re in the wrong car.”
 
Great.
 
She again indicated again that it was ok.
 
Then Joanna Leigh got my iPad and began playing games. The little boy got interested, then the daughter. Things were going to work out. We both kind of laughed in a knowing way, that sometimes a language barrier didn’t really matter.
 
Theirs was the stop before Innsbruck. When they got ready to get off, she indicated up on the hill was where they lived. Joanna Leigh said, “Wait a minute.” She got a stuffed bear that the Kings Center Hotel had given her and presented it to the little girl.
 
Really, everything was fine. We both had a good time watching the kids play games. We said our good-byes as they got off. They waved.
It wasn’t long before the engineer announced the Innsbruck stop. The same fellow who had put luggage in the overhead, got it down; then he helped get it all off the train onto the platform.


On the train in seats #25 and #26









Then I heard, “Joanna, Joanna” in a German accent. Finally we were to meet Roland face to face after two years of constant communication by e-mails and a growing friendship.

10-2014-08-05 19.19.54

At the Innsbruck train station: (left to right)Susan, Roland, Jakob Mayer,
and Joanna Leigh (no duh!)

Going into Italy, next.




 



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