I was riding a crowded cable car on a sweltering, sweaty, summer day in Italy. The close quarters and ripe scents of numerous hot humans sardined together would normally bother me, but I was just so jazzed to be having such an amazing experience I barely noticed the uncomfortable conditions.
Crammed next to me was a cute Italian family made up of two exhausted parents and three beautiful busy little boys with the biggest greenest eyes I’ve ever seen. The five of them were not as ecstatic as I was about being packed in public transit that afternoon.
The baby was whimpering, the toddler was bawling, and the oldest boy was wailing something in Italian to his dad that, without even understanding the words, translated perfectly in tone: “I’m tired, hot, probably hungry and too immature to be patient or gracious in this situation, so I’m going to make it worse by complaining in a nerve-pinching tone that will test your ability to be patient and gracious in this situation.”
In response, this young father did something that also transcended translation, and was awesome.
He put on his best sympathetic mime face and played an imaginary violin. This only irritated the kid more, but it was worth enduring his increased wrath just to watch this scene play out. I had no idea the cheeky let-me-play-you-a-sad-song-on-the-violin act was a global expression of “Shut up and deal with it!”
I wish I could say this little familial drama was the only whining I witnessed on the trip. It wasn’t. And the other scenarios of it I endured were far less entertaining.
Every party has a pooper, right?
Well, we weren’t a day into our European tour when our group’s “Official Whiner” revealed herself. Sara found fault with every aspect of the trip: a restaurant didn’t serve enough salad to her table, the A/C unit in her hotel room didn’t get cold enough, there wasn’t enough shopping time allowed in the schedule, our tour guide was unaccommodating to her needs, the Pope didn’t come out to greet her during the Vatican tour, and on and on.
She qualified each complaint with the statement “I paid good money for this trip!” which we labeled as her authorized catch phrase and parodied on the sly.
She did pay good money for her trip. We all did, and we all wanted to get the most bang for our European buck but realized that life happens even when you’re on vacation so you learn to make the best of situations and just be grateful you got the opportunity to even be in Paris to get a stingy salad serving.
I was prepared to give Sara this very speech one morning when I tragically ended up at her table at breakfast and was stuck listening to her latest list of grievances. Just as she wrapped with, “I paid good money for this trip,” and I was about to ask if she wanted more cheese with her whine, I thought otherwise. Instead, I pulled out my imaginary violin.
When in Rome.