Riding with Italians and an Irish man
Our car is 10 years old. It doesn’t have that much mileage on it, a little over 100,000 which is not a lot for a Fiat. The guys over at Boninsegni maintain it for us but every now and then something breaks. It’s a 10 year old car. Things happen.
So Ben and I were off to the fabric store, trying to get there before they closed for lunch when I heard the car making funny noises. And then it started acting like I had a flat tire but I didn’t and more funny noises and smells now. Of course, at lunch time. I made it to the fabric store parking lot which of course was now closed so I missed that and missed any help of them calling ACI (Auto Club Italia, the AAA of Italy) for me. So I had to do it myself. Yes, I know we have lived here a long time, speaking face to face in Italian is one thing, over the phone something else, even worse with a cell phone. Nothing to do but try. It is not unreasonable to ask and there is even a menu pick for English when you call ACI, but I kept getting men who wanted me to spell my name and give all sorts of other bits of info instead of just taking my ACI card number. When the card number is called up in their system everything they were asking me is there! Why not just start with the card number? Anyway, I finally got a woman, first thing she said was ‘what is your card number?’ Bingo! ‘Now, what’s wrong and where are you?’ So simple. ‘We’ll send a truck.’
Truck arrives. It is obvious to the truck driver and me that Ben will never manage to get in the cab of the truck. So the driver shoos me back in our car and hoists it on to the flatbed truck. So there we are riding down the road like the Queen and Prince Phillip in a golden carriage.
Well not quite. Anyway, we are in Arezzo and the tow truck driver refuses to take me to Boninsegni in Camucia. saying my towing benefit only covers 20 kilometers and Camucia is further away. So we are taken to the Arezzo Fiat dealer. Fortunately, George and Jules are floating around Arezzo at the same time and swing by to pick us up. The dealership is closed for lunch. They have no idea when they will get to our car.
We make it home and I send off a quick email to our guardian angel at Boninsegni, Nicola. He responds…’Send the dealership an email and tell them my tow truck will come and pick up your car. I won’t charge you for that.’ True to his word our car makes it to Boninsegni in Camucia. The very nice service manager who knows to speak slowly over the phone with me calls and explains the problem and we agree on a price and they start to work. A few days later, Nicola emails, ‘your car is fixed. I will come by your house after lunch tomorrow and pick you up and take you to your car.’
Now let’s just stop here and recall that Nicola was who we saw after Ben’s unfortunate incident with our first car, when we just walked into the dealership for advice. Before I could even explain, Nicola was the one who immediately said ‘Martha, I heard what happened last night. I was just going to call you. How can we help you?’ And there in his hand was our phone number. Tell me where except maybe a small town in America would someone who had only lived in the area for less than a year be treated so kindly, so thoughtfully and so well? That simple act made us Boninsegni customers for life. Yet even now, years later, we are still being treated like royalty. And let me not over look the time he came to rescue us when it snowed. Please click on the link to read about that adventure.
So Nicola comes to pick me up. He tells me about his travels. When he sent the first email and made arrangements for our car to be moved, he was in Hong Kong. The day before when he made arrangements to pick me up he was in Frankfurt, Germany at the yearly car show. (So not only is he providing excellent customer service, he’s doing it while traveling internationally) We talk about Chinese food. At this point we are driving on a single lane country road at 40 miles an hour. Not a straight country road but one with curves and hedges. Ohhh, round the curve and here’s a tractor. Ohhh, round the curve and here’s someone coming straight at us from the other way. I love Nicola but he is one of these folks who turn their head and LOOK at you while driving and talking. Which is fine if you need to make a point, but when you’re just talking about Chinese food….
Anyway, we arrive. I thank him profusely, arrange to send my Chinese recipes and restaurant suggestions. Pick up my car and make it home.
A day or two before the car fell ill I had been up to Florence to drop off Ben’s application to renew his passport. We are traveling in November and his passport expires in January. He might could have traveled on it but since we are flying through another country before we reach the US, maybe he could have been refused. And anyway, I figured it would be easier to renew it here in Italy than to try to renew it in DC. The day the car died, the embassy emailed that his passport was ready. Chatting with Richard and John about going to Florence, we worked out a day when I could ride up with Richard and he would drop me off at the embassy.
In all these years I have never ridden in a car with Richard driving. I am usually driving him in our car or John is driving us in our car. Never Richard driving when I am in the car. As we are riding I keep reminding myself that Richard has lived all over the world and driven all over the world, in cities whose names I can’t even pronounce let alone think of driving in. We are in their new car. Richard has not yet gotten the Tom-Tom, GPS, whatever thing mounted on the dash. As we are flying down the autostrada he reveals that he doesn’t really know where our first stop, IKEA is. Okay, no problem. I can get you there. We arrive and do a blitz shop and then set the GPS for the embassy.
Now instead of flying through IKEA with a cart we are flying along city streets in a car and I’m holding the the GPS so that Richard can see it. He has to chat on the phone. The new car has this feature of cutting off when you are stopped at a stop light. Which is a bit un-nerving until Richard explains that if you take your foot off the brake and it is stopped or some combination of actions it cuts off and then starts again when you press the gas. Any way sweet Irish woman on the GPS is giving us directions which I swear have us going in circles. Richard is waxing poetic about all the wonderful parties that he has been to at the US Embassy and is following the GPS woman when I screech at him about the limited traffic zone that she (Irish GPS woman) was directing us to drive into. Entering a limited traffic zone without being handicapped or without the exemption sticker carries a pricy, pricy fine. (that means there are 2 zeros behind the first number which is greater than 1) It is only a block or two so I get out to walk the rest of the way. And Richard flies off to meet John.
So in a week’s time, I have ridden in a golden carriage, been treated like royalty and discussed dinner parties at the US Embassy in Florence. That’s the spin my mother would have put on it.
How about a picture of Florence?
Taken outside the embassy looking across the Arno.
The car is fine. One day last week I drove Richard to an obscure resale store and managed to get there with out GPS Irish woman’s help. We used a map! And didn’t drive like a bat out of hell because it was raining and the Italians were slipping off the road in front of us because slowing down is just so wrong…..
And I know I am fortunate to have wonderful folks who look after us and help out when needed.