Job Tips for Campsite Couriers 5 : Meeting 'Super Mario'.

Click on the link below for Part 1 of the series.

Job Tips for Campsite Couriers 5 : Meeting 'Super Mario'.

Fully established with a foothold on the sacred soil of Italy the hard work begins. But when you have time off it's imperative to make the most of it.

Those precious days when you are off the site make you feel like you are on holiday. Also if you feel inclined socialise with the natives as much as possible as it can be great fun.

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We set up our base on the south western shores of Lake Garda. A beautiful landscape of mountains with snow-topped peaks in the clear blue skies of spring.

The view was absolutely breathtaking looking from the slopes of our campsite down onto the town of Salo.

First thing to do was set up a huge 'Family-size' communal cook tent which the experienced staff did quickly and expertly.

However there was a noticeable lump under the groundsheet. Turned out to be a hammer. I did suggest battering it down with a budgie but that fell on deaf ears.

Tip: Get off the campsite when you have your free time.

So that was us set for a couple of weeks Montage of hard work and fun. Of course we did have days off and some of the best advice us new folk got was to make sure to get off the campsite in our free time. You'll probably be working 6 days a week or 5 and a half if you're lucky in the camping trade.

So get away from the site and do your best to soak up all the country has to offer wherever that may be. Paris, Amsterdam, Rome or Barcelona it doesn't matter just get out that camp gate. On one of our first days off we went to Venice which was an awesome experience. It was everything I expected. A truly magical city.

We spent several hours there walking through the streets to St Mark's Square while eating pizza, drinking beer and sampling the ice-cream before heading back to the train station.

Tip: Don't forget to validate your train or bus ticket if applicable

At the train station the ticket machine wouldn't stamp my ticket to validate it. In Italy you need to get it stamped before you board the train because if you don't then it's an automatic €40 fine, on-the-spot, non-negotiable.

My workmates were already over on the platform at the train haranguing me to hurry up to get on board. Panic stations ensued as I kept inserting the ticket and the machine kept doing nothing except flash "fuori servizio" on the read out. Back and forth I slid it in but to no avail.

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"Furious service?" I thought, "You must be kiddin!"

"Hurry up Stevie, the train!" they shouted

"I'm coming, I'm coming!!"

I kept inserting the ticket back and forth until the penny dropped that it wasn't working, I reckoned "fuori servizio" meant 'out of service' or something similar.

So I queued up behind a couple of folk on another machine.

"Hurry up!" again came the shout from the train,

"I'm coming, I'm coming!!" I said,

"The train!"

"Yeah, I know it's a train"

Tip: Stay calm in a crisis or else lose your temper

In front of me a portly woman was also inserting her ticket back and forth to no avail with me looking frantically over her shoulder. She was speaking to a friend about it, probably cursing as much as me about the undependable certainties of the technological age. She kept trying but with no luck;

"Oh no! Not this machine too?" I muttered,

"Hurry up!" came the cry from the train,

"Bloody machines don't work!" I replied,

"The train!!!"

"The machine!!!"

Eventually everything clicked into place and the woman's ticket was 'convalida' and subsequently I could stamp my ticket now. I stepped forward, kept inserting the ticket back and forth and the machine kept doing nothing. Back and forth I slid it in to no avail.

Are you getting the feeling of 'deja-vu' right now my friends? Well? how do you think I feel right now? I'm reliving the experience all over again, but at least this time I can edit the prose to take a short cut through the most anxious bits.

"Hurry up!"

"Piss off!!"

"The train"

"Fuck the train"

I was instantly reminded of Rudyard Kipling's famous word "If you can keep your head when all around are losing theirs and blaming it on you, then you obviously don't give a toss" A wise man he was indeed but I bet he never travelled on Italian trains.

I kept inserting the ticket back and forth and the machine kept doing nothing. Back and forth I slid it in to no avail. Are you getting the feeling of 'deja-three' right now my friends? Then eventually;

"Click!"

"YES!!!" got you!!"

A half victory in my never-ending battle with modern electronic machinery as during all my back and forthing trying to get the thing to bite it had stamped my ticket half-way out or half-way in. It happened so quickly I can't remember which but the end result was that the 'convalida' stamp was diagonal across the corner of the ticket and possibly not fully complete. But by then I'd had enough anyway, the peer pressure was too intense and I ran like hell for the platform to catch the train.

The train wasn't leaving for another 10 minutes. After all that palaver, not to mention that another two folk were still behind in the station there was loads of time. Then suddenly the train doors closed;

"Hells bells!!!" grab them, grab them, open the doors, open the doors!!"

"Where's the other two guys?"

"Hurry up!!, the train!!"

But then someone more sensible said ;

"No worries, they automatically close after a certain time"

"Open them anyway!!!" someone said,

"Hurry up!!" they shouted to the guys on the platform,

"The train!!"

"It's not bleedin going anywhere!" came the reply.

Tip: Don't worry about being in a strange environment. It's natural to feel anxious

But isn't it incredible that when you're transported out of your natural environment everything takes on a heightened drama and sheer anxiety sets in? The unknown and the unfamiliar just throw you out of your homegrown complacency

This can take you right out of your comfort zone where normally everything is predictable and recognisable. You just don't know what's happening or what to do, so the best plan of action is panic, because at least then you're doing something. Maybe not practical or especially effective but at least it's visible.

Tip: Retail establishments can mean many different things on the Continent

After we alighted the train at a local station we went into a pub, shop, newsagent, grocery, ticket office. You find that in Europe many shops serve a multi-purpose. It was then that we met Mario a local guy and a regular in the pub, shop, newsagent, grocery, tobacconist, ticket office.

Mario was a great guy and became our host for an hour or so. A couple of the girls in our party had blonde hair so he played some ABBA tunes on the pub stereo in their honour. He then played some more Italian tunes and we tried to communicate as best we could with his broken English and my decimated Italian. I asked if he liked Luciano Ligabue, although I wasn't too sure about the pronunciation;

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"Luchee-ano Looga-bway?" I'd ask

"Mmmm?"

"Loo-see-ano Lig-a-booay?" I'd venture

"Ohhh?"

"Erm, Irene Grandi"

"Uuuh?"

"Poh-Vee-a?"

"Ehhh?"

"Guiseppe Povia?"

"Ohhh!!"

Mario looked a bit non-commital on the merits of Povia so I suggested the classic gladiatorial 'thumbs-up' or 'thumbs-down' sign language to break the communication barrier;

'So-so!' he indicated with a horizontal wave of the palm. Well, it was a result of sorts I suppose. Guiseppe wasn't put to the figurative sword or fed to the imaginary lions.

Tip: Mix with the locals and observe local customs. Especially if they're buying the drink.

Mario bought a bottle of wine for us to share and I tried to dissuade him from buying another but a friend explained it would be rude to decline as it was a mark of friendship and hospitality. So we accepted another bottle graciously.

Mario asked;

"Are you English?"

"Yes!!" replied our group,

"Hang on!" I said,"Mi Scozzesi!!",

"Ah ha!" said Mario laughing, "You fight!"

"Yeah, with the whisky" I said,

"And beer?" he continued, making a fist-clenching action.

He was great fun and luckily his friend came in, who could speak English so we had a translator now and we chatted a bit longer and drank more wine and beer. But we had to leave shortly and went to another campsite, where we got merrily drunk and didn't get back to Lake Garda until 2.45am.

A really long day but a great day, thanks to Venice and Super Mario and his friends in the pub, shop, dry-cleaners, newsagent, grocery, tobacconist, pork-butcher, travel-agents, goldfish emporium, ticket office-cum-musical convention.

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Diane 5 years ago

Yah, on Eden I had a lump under the groundsheet in the kitchen area which turned out to be a dead headgehog. At San Fracensco it was usually Lake Garda under the groundsheet...

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