The last three days of spring break got pretty wild. There’s something sweet about the end of something, even if it’s just a break. For me, this meant caring less that all of my clothes were dirty, spending less time on my own and more time enjoying the city with friends, and going clubbing. The story itself is pretty funny. I hate checking my coat at clubs so I timed my departure from the hostel perfectly (or so I thought) and arrived at the club at precisely the time I said I would meet my friends, so that I wouldn’t need to wear a coat. Unfortunately, one of the girls was still putting on her makeup and the group I was meeting hadn’t left the house left, which was twenty minutes away. Retreating into the marginally warmer train station, I waited for the better part of an hour as they struggled to get out of the house, got out at the wrong train station, and then got lost.
Finally, we found each other and went into the club. The music was terrible. When we got there almost nobody was dancing. Everybody was looking around a little uncomfortably, so I suggested the group of girls I was with start playing Ninja. For anybody who doesn’t know this is a very silly looking game where you try to slap one another’s hands. Before long other people started to join in and for a while it was just people playing Ninja on the dance floor. Then when we started dancing we’d already mingled with one another so it didn’t seem nearly as awkward. I went in halfway with another girl to buy shots for ourselves and the girl whose birthday it was and was very unprepared for the bartender to pull out a lighter and set all three drinks on fire. We had to drink them really quickly to stop the straws from melting. One of the girls spilled her drinks as she was trying to finish it and set the entire bar on fire. I came home sweaty, tired, and having had a thoroughly good time around two in the morning and tried to quietly situate myself in a hostel room full of five other sleeping people.
Continuing with the theme of poor traveling decisions, Owen and I realized that the overnight train ticket we’d bought was actually from Vienna to Venice, and wouldn’t get us to Florence at all. So the next morning we walked to the train station to try and fix our mistake. We couldn’t get refunded for our ticket, but the cost of a second overnight train ticket from Vienna to Florence was cheaper than a ticket from Venice to Florence would’ve been so we took that. The night train felt very much like Harry Potter, with separate compartments of 6 chairs each. Each chair reclined so far that you could lie down completely if there were only three people in the car. Owen and I were in a car with a very nice African guy, who talked to me a little bit, before we turned off the lights and went to sleep.
We were brutally awakened at 1 in the morning by the Polizia (Italian police) who slammed the door open to our compartment and flashed on the lights, demanding to see all of our passports. Disoriented, confused, Owen and I scrambled for our passports, but they hardly even looked at them before turning to the man next to us.
“Do you have a permit of stay?” the polizia demanded.
“It’s in Rome,” the man replied, looking uncomfortable. “I have to go pick it up.”
“That’s not good enough,” the polizia replied.
And then, so fast the man barely had time to grab his backpack (and forgot his phone charger in the outlet) they removed him from the compartment and forcibly marched him from the train. I saw him on the platform, being led away by the police, and I wondered if they were going to deport him that night. It was a very disconcerting experience, both the startling way in which they’d woken us and the swiftness with which they’d grabbed the man next to me. I asked Yuli later, who’d been sleeping in a compartment a few cars away and she said the police never came into her compartment. I wondered if they’d only come into our car because there was a black man in it and I hardly knew how to process that thought. I still don’t entirely know how. It was one of the craziest things I’ve ever experienced because it felt like I was seeing a snippet of a life that didn’t belong to me whatsoever.