Two weeks ago I set out on a one-day road trip to the Amalfi Coast to join my Mediterranean cruisin’ cousin and her friends.
The day started out slowly, with a flood in the southern Calabrian city of Reggio Calabria delaying trains by at least two hours. Determined … I waited. And waited. And waited. And then I went on.
I hopped on a bus in Salerno for a 50 minute bus ride up the scenic Amalfi Coast to the namesake town of Amalfi.
And that is where my story begins …
As I boarded the bus I saw an elderly man – knocking on 75, I’d say – shuffling his way towards the bus stop. I had seen him earlier on the train from Calabria and we acknowledged each other and went on our way.
He joined me on the bus and asked if he could sit with me. “Sure,” I said, thinking this man, with his wealth of knowledge of Italy’s most beautiful coastline would help me pass the time with stories of the area.
A whopping two minutes after the bus departs, I feel a hand on my knee.
I brush it off and think it must have been an accident.
There it is again.
I rearrange my bags and lean a little closer to the window. At least it was a nice view.
He leans in, “I just want to spend a little time with you,” he whispers. “Where are you going?”
I tell him my travel plans and end with a remorseful, “So, no. I can’t spend the day with you.”
“I have a house here,” he insists. “You can stay with me and I’ll drive you back to Calabria tomorrow.”
Wondering if this man is joking, if he has lost his mind, or if I seriously have “I’m a tramp” stamped on my forehead, I politely, yet somewhat more forcefully than last time tell him “No, thanks.”
The entire time this conversation is going on, his wiggly fingers are trying to pry themselves beneath the bags I had firmly stationed between us.
Wiggle … wiggle … I felt a fingertip.
Just then his phone rang and I seized the opportunity to build a wall between us with my book and bags of Calabrian products I was taking to my cousin. I was careful to keep my purse on the other side – lest all this feeling-up was just a ruse to get my wallet.
He hung up with his wife – Porco! – and started right back in on the finger crawl.
“I’m never gonna win,” I thought to myself. “He’s had 70 years of practice working on women … I’ve only had two!”
Finally. After 50 minutes of pushing him off of me, we arrived at his stop. He tried once more, “We are getting off at the next stop,” he said.
“We?” I ask suspiciously.
“Well, I am. I hope you will get off with me.”
“No,” I tell him, without smiling.
“Do you need anything?” He insists. “Do you need money?”
Without even trying to convince this old goat that I am not an American prostitute working the costiera, I tell him no and send him on his way.
So, can someone please tell me what I am doing wrong? What is it about me that screams – take advantage of me? – to aging Italian men? Has this ever happened to you? How did you or would you handle a situation like this?