With a collection of large suitcases (and Nazy’s even larger handbags), we had taken the tram to the Stadelhofen station where, in possession of the largest suitcase, the largest carry-on and Nazy’s gargantuan purse, I was scanning the timetable for airport trains, specifically the S-16. Nazy noticed that I was also patiently waiting for my turn at the ticket machine.

“Come to my machine!”

“But I’m …”

“You won’t have to wait.”

As soon as I got there, Nazy shouted: “Where is my purse?”

I dropped a coin into the ticket machine and turned toward Nazy.

“My purse! Did you lose my purse?” Nazy hurriedly scanned the platform for the purse that was (momentarily) below her left foot. Unfortunately, Nazy’s left foot was already in a downward trajectory – accelerating toward the ground. A crunch and crack ensued. Someone had stepped on a mirror.

“I see you found your purse,” I said.

“You don’t watch these things, Dan.” Nazy replied. “I knew you’d lose..”

I didn’t step on it, my dear.” My retort was ill-advised.

“Now we will have 7 years of bad luck, Dan.”

“Do not be superstitious, Nazy. That’s absurd.”

We flew Helvetica airlines directly to Catania. The charter flight (and dodgy airline) meant that my i
nflated frequent flyer status cut no mustard. We were seated in the last row of the Fokker. Our fellow passengers were loud and inexperienced. A French woman, unable to figure out how to exit the lavatory, began banging on the door. She was rescued by the purser.

Luggage delivery began (sort of) after a 45 minute wait: the baggage belt finally began to move. 25 short minutes later, a single suitcase was disgorged from subterranean depths. Additional suitcases eventually appeared on the belt – evenly spaced, 16 meters apart. By the time we got our baggage, we had been in the baggage hall longer than we had been in the air. (We had, in fact, been in the baggage hall longer than I had been alive.) Our journey was just starting. Our next step was the challenging rental car desk.

The Avis clerk, Gina Maria Dumbasetti, appeared to speak English. (However, she didn’t actually understand English.) Having read about the ‘roads’ in Sicily on the flight, we decided to upgrade our Fiat to an Alpha Romero. Change, however, was not Gina Maria’s strong suit. We compounded our error by ordering an optional navigation computer. Eventually, having signed 23 pieces of paper, I was given the key. Gina Maria told me to collect the car at space 35. We walked outside into the blazing sun. Nazy was the first to notice that: “There is no car in space 35.”

“I can see that, my dear.” I replied.

Nazy was certain that I had mis-heard the instructions, but I was able to show her written documentation that our car should have been in space 35. We trudged back to the Avis ‘Preferred’ office and attempted to explain our problem. Gallant, I let Nazy handle the negotiations in the hot and humid office. Gina claimed that we had asked for a downgrade.

“Downgrade?” I told Nazy. “How could we downgrade from a Fiat Punto? And what does that have to do with the fact that there is no car in space 35?”

We eventually made our way out of the aeroporto and headed for the centro of Catana. (We were tiredo.)

“I told you we’d have bad luck, Dan.” Nazy trilled.

“Coincidence, my dear, merely coincidence,” I replied. (Hopefully!)

Although worn out from a two hour flight and our four hour adventure at the airport, we still had time to notice our surroundings. As usual, Nazy was reading the guide book aloud as we searched for the hotel.

“You don’t have to read anymore, Nazy. I know this place is famous.”


“Yes. This is the birthplace of graffiti. Some of this ‘art’ looks like it dates from Roman Times.”

“The city was founded by the Greeks, Dan.”

“Maybe so, but the Romans gave it a name. Cantania means ‘graffiti’ in Italian. Some of these buildings haven’t been cleaned up since the 6 century (BC).”

“Maybe so, but the Romans gave it a name. Cantania means ‘graffiti’ in Italian. Some of these buildings haven’t been cleaned up since the 6 century (BC).”

Our first impression made it clear that our plan – to leave Catania the next day – was well-advised. And, although we had a nice dinner and a pleasant walk through the city, we were not distraught by an early departure. [By family convention, ‘early’ means 10:30 in the morning.]

We wanted to drive to Syracuse, but we were unable to breathe life into Sergio, the navigation computer. Reluctantly, we decided to stop by Avis on the way. And: “We don’t need a navigation computer to find the aeroporto,” I explained. “We can just backtrack from yesterday’s drive.”

Unfortunately, ‘yesterday’s drive’ was marked by one-way, eh, wrong-way streets.

We found ourselves… actually, we couldn’t find ourselves. The traffic was terrible and the rules were incomprehensible. We had to share the ‘road’ with a zillion fearless motorbikers darting between (and around) cars stuck in the turgid ‘flow’ of mainstream traffic.

“Lost,” I thought. “We are hopelessly lost.” Then, good luck! I saw a sign to the airport. “Look!” I said to Nazy.

“Dan!” Nazy shouted.