We bought a three day pass when we got to Venice that allowed us to ride on the local transportation system. For three days no one checked our pass and we saw no one else get their pass checked. Our passes expired on our last full day there. So when we got up Sunday morning to head to the garage and reclaim our car for the trip back to Leran, we took a calculated risk. We boarded the vaporetto, the Venice verision of a floating bus, and we didn’t buy tickets. We were scamming the system. Getting a free ride. We were part of the problem, not the solution. But we thought on an early Sunday morning we could get away with it.
As we boarded, there was a young lady in a transport uniform heading for work. It turned out her work was checking for losers like us. At the next stop, two more checkers got on our vaporetto, and the three of them went to work. They picked as their first victim a lady standing next to Kate, and then Kate, and Nancy and me. The nameless lady survived. Her pass was good. Ours were not.
Our options were paying a fine and a tax on the fine amounting to 50 euro, or they would take our passport information and we’d be able to pay at the post office. Not on a Sunday, however. That would have been too easy. We left town with three tickets because we didn’t have enough cash to pay three fines. I argued with the fare busters that I had 100 euro and could pay if they didn’t give Kate a ticket, but to no avail. They were going to fine the American lawbreakers and no amount of arguing by Nancy and Kate would sway their resolve.
But now we don’t know if we’ll be denied entry to the US because of unpaid fines, or denied entry back to the European Union next year when we come back, or the mafioso will pay us a visit in Moab or where Kate lives in an unnamed American city.
I was angry, but I couldn’t really argue. And I was angry mostly at myself. We had gambled and lost. We could have bought tickets but we didn’t. We fought the law and the law won.
After we retrieved our car and got on the motorway to France, we stopped in central Italy to gas up. Nancy was driving and I got out of the passenger side. Nancy and Kate headed for toilets and drinks. Two gents in gas station attire offered to gas me up. Fill it up, I told them. They began to inquire in broken English about where I had gotten the car, was it a rental, where was I from? New York? No, Utah. Blah, blah, blah.
I pulled out my credit card to pay the 49.50 euro and the gents said no credit cards. How unusual, I thought, but I had my two fifty euro notes and so pulled one out and handed it to the gas jockey. Confusion ensued. I’d handed him a ten instead and so he gave it back. I pulled out the wallet again and gave him a fifty. I got my 50 centimes change and everybody was happy.
Back on the road again, I got to thinking, where did my other fifty euro note go? It was in my wallet on the vaporetto. I checked with Nancy and she confirmed she's seen two fifties in my wallet. Shit. Double shit. Snake shit. I was scammed. Why, those scoundrels.
They had sized me up as a tourist, then an American, and as a non-Italian speaker. I was the perfect mark. They refused the credit card, and in my momentary confusion, said cash only. Had I taken a moment to think I would have had alarm bells going off. I had pulled out a fifty and he pocketed it while the other guy occupied me with questions about the car, and where I was from. From somewhere, he produced a ten and I thought I’d make an honest mistake; I thought that they thought I was trying to scam them. Perfect. Had I protested right then and there in my non-existent Italian, it would have been two against one. I could not win even if I had realized the scam was taking place before my eyes.
As John Lennon said, “Instant karma’s gonna get ya.”