Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Patience for Waiting

It was rush hour in the cliff-clinging town of Positano. After the bliss of carless Riomaggiore and the other Cinque Terre towns, the chaos of cars on the tiny narrow streets passing two inches away from us at the bus stop was a different world. We were waiting for the public bus to take us further up the cliff, already 30 minutes past the scheduled time. But looking out at the sea and the spectacle of traffic and tourists and locals, I realized I had recovered a certain patience for waiting, a skill long ago cultivated living in Southern India (and long abandoned as I curse the Muni bus in San Francisco two minutes late). I had returned to the traveler’s mantra, “Wherever you go, there you are.”

How much of our stress has to do with time and schedule! The bus that passes us by is intolerable when we’re late for our class or meeting. We head across the bridge for the concert and curse when we hit the stalled traffic. We look forward to a movie to relieve our stress and then add to it when we can’t find parking and the clock is ticking. We’re at the mercy of the world when we set off expecting on-time buses, good traffic and available parking and when the world sticks out its foot and trips us up, we have no patience. Schedules breed stress and stress turns us into miserable, whining creatures.

But now I was back in the traveler’s time zone, patient and relaxed. Earlier, missed the bus from Sorrento to Positano by one minute, but no problem to sit and wait the 30 minutes for the next one. Waited on the train platform in Naples for ­the 32-stop train to Sorrento— sure, why not? Waited in Rome for the train to Naples— guess I’ll have an ice cream bar. Waited in La Spezia for the train to Rome— well, isn’t is a fine morning! And again in Riomaggiore for the train to La Spezia. It had been a long day of travel and we were ready to arrive at our hotel and the bus was late, but no matter. We’ll just hang out and hope for the best.

Except that when it finally came and was too full for us to get on (though with some people moving back, I thought we could have fit) and the driver said another bus was 10 minutes behind, I admit I was beginning to lose my patience just a tad. When the second bus came 20 minutes later and passed us by without stopping, my patience-meter was dropping. And the contrast between the 3 Euro bus ticket and the 30 Euro taxi ride was large enough to reject the nice taxi driver’s offer as he walked by. 

But now we had to re-consider. Talked with another traveling couple waiting for the same bus and decided to see if we could split the taxi fare and we could and we did. So finally arrived at a dead-end street so high up on the mountain that it made Twin Peaks in San Francisco look like an anthill. Grabbed our bags and started descending 150 stairs wishing we had decided to travel a bit lighter and finally arrived at a hotel that redeemed every moment of impatience. You don’t know the meaning of “a room with a view” until you’ve been to La Quercia Hotel in Positano on the Amalfi Coast.

Details— with a photo— tomorrow. Be patient.

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