I like to think of myself as a world traveler. And by that I mean I’ve left the country twice for a total of 11 days to travel to three countries outside the USA. Note, I am counting a 2.5 hour layover in Munich because I had to use my phone to look up the German word for ‘thank you’ even though everyone in the airport spoke perfect English. But being polite is important to me so I thought “hmm how can I make these employees feel more at home in this international airport and at the same time let them know that I am an obnoxious American tourist but like not the worst obnoxious American?” So I looked it up. It’s ‘danke’ which you probably already knew. This all took a modicum of effort & $10 worth of international data so I am counting Germany in my countries visited and no one can convince me to do otherwise. My most recent travels took me to three different cities in Italy. I had planned this trip only a month prior so I could see my new boyfriend during his month and a half long European excursion. And also cause who doesn’t want to go Italy? I would meet up with him and some of his family in Milan after their pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago (if you don’t know what that is, rent ‘The Way’ which stars the Sheens that found Jesus). However, they weren’t getting into Milan until 8pm whereas I was getting in at 8am. That’s a whole day on my own in a country where I hardly know the language despite having studied Italian during my lunch breaks over the past three weeks. Side note here, I have a real beef with the author of ’15 Minute Italian’ because that title makes you assume that you will learn the basics of Italian in 15 minutes. However, once you’ve purchased this supposed miracle book, you realize it’s actually ’15 minute a day lessons for the next rest of your whole life’. Suffice it to say, I knew how to order food, say thank you, discuss the basics of cheese, and warn people that my boyfriend was a diabetic. I figured that would cover the major bases. The rest I would rely on my group as a backboard for my loud American exclamations and hand motions to get across our needs to the locals.
As you can probably surmise, I was not fully prepared to be in Milan on my own, jet lagged and cranky. I had spent most of my morning in a panic attempting to communicate with a hotel owner who was also the owner of our Airbnb. He would speak rapid Italian to me and I would respond in half-crying English. *Travel tip* know how to ask for the wifi password cause then you can at least use google translate, which although is not perfect, is a gift from God that we should utilize when being yelled at in a foreign language. I would leave the hotel, walk back in, argue, and repeat the process a couple of times until he gave up and spoke English to me and I was able to finally drop off my stuff.
Once I had ditched my bags it was time to do the most worthwhile thing as a tourist in Milan, SHOP. My goal was to spend at least a solid 2 hours perusing the spread at Zara which is a European store much like H&M that is not easily found in the USA. I saw there was a Zara in or near the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II which is the coolest mall you will ever see (probably only topped by what I’m assuming is some mall/race track/dance club/froyo shop in Dubai). Do yourself a favor though and look up pictures of the Galleria Vittorio. I’ll wait. It’s ridiculous amiright? Anyways, I knew I wanted to see this glorious mall so the fact that there was a Zara there as well was an added bonus. The issue that I found when I emerged from the Metro right in front of the Galleria was that I had no idea how to penetrate this wondrous center of commercialism. I found an H&M and figured I could find my way to the center of the mall from there. I was wrong. I was so very wrong. This was the labyrinthine H&M of your nightmares. I wasn’t sure if this place was real or if I was actually dreaming and Leonardo DiCaprio had incepted this maze for me. Where was the end? What was Leo trying to tell me?? Was I really interesting enough to be incepted??? There were massive sales going on and extremely tan people everywhere. I had to dodge them as they twirled with their ‘Beyoncé is Kween’ t-shirts and duck as they held out plastic flower crowns to their friends. There were mirrors on every wall. I would turn a corner just to find a dead end and a terrified, red-eyed, wounded baby bird version of myself staring back. And I don’t know how many floors this thing had. I’m pretty sure 18 because I kept ascending step after step after step and just more and more of the same neon colored Vietnam appeared before me.
I was ascending one of the stairwells when my floppy sandal caught a stair and I fell, in what seemed like slow motion, to the cold, granite floor. I yelped as I went down, slamming one of my palms into the ground as the floor met my left knee cap. My hand on the granite sounded like a telenovela ‘SLAP’. In my head I yelled “PORQUE DIOS PORQUUEE”. During those moments of falling I thought “This is it, I am going to be paralyzed in an H&M in Italy because I’ll need help and I don’t know how to ask for help because that piece of shit book didn’t teach me Italian in 15 minutes like it said it would and I’ll just lie here as my muscles atrophy and become useless. Or I am going to have to go to an ER in a foreign country which will probably cost $87,000 and I’ll be dirt poor and have to live in this H&M, hidden in the piles of clothes, feeding on fruit-shaped accessories or oh God, I’ll have to become a beggar and actually learn a talent to make money to buy my sparkling water and feed the dog I don’t have”.
Also, normally when I fall in public like this I can feel better once I’ve seen other people and can exclaim to the concerned onlookers how everything is actually fine and can acknowledge that that was actually pretty hilarious. But in this case the only two people on this stairwell were a guy on his phone who gave precisely negative shits about this pitiful American weeble wobble and a girl who seemed semi-concerned but only said ‘basta!’ AND I DON’T KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS. So I gave her a look that probably said “I’m scared and may have just ruined my life but I’m too lazy to try to communicate that to you in your native tongue”. Thankfully, I walked off the stiff knee, immediately left that H&M from hell and was totally fine. This definitely ranks in my top 5 of dramatic falls.