Thursday, 8 July 2010

On the Rails to Genoa

We were the first into the rail car with our designated seats.  You'll know a lot about what the inside of second class rail cars look like if you've seen Harry Potter's train journeys to Hogwarts, only perhaps these are slightly more modern.  There are three seats on each side facing each other.  Bill and I had been assigned the middle seats and so faced one another.  One has to have a reservation in 2nd class and so we felt compelled to sit in our proper seats, though they weren't the ones we chose on the self-service computer where we purchased tickets.  Like I always say, convenience (and efficiency) tend to be an American concept; I don't actually expect it in Europe.  I don't mean that to sound condescending.  I count this aspect as part of the adventure of travel!

The next passenger to join us was a young woman.  I put her in her late 20s-early 30s.  She looked Italian, even though she wasn't wearing smart leather shoes; hers were the kind one associates with hiking.  Her jeans were casually cuffed and her white tee looked much like a man's.  She wore a good black leather belt at her hips and the occasional sliver of brown midriff was revealed.  Her long dark brown hair pulled back in a large black barrette that matched her black hooped earrings.  She wore no discernible make-up.  She had large brown eyes -- her gaze was forthright and intelligent -- a large-ish nose and full lips.  On one wrist she wore a couple of rubber bracelets, as one sees these days; her left arm was entirely encased in a cast-like wrapping. She seemed preoccupied when she first boarded, but I put this down to concern about her arm and her luggage.  She asked Bill for help putting her case up on the overhead rack.  She failed to thank him, so I gave her a small black mark.  She was sitting next to the window, beside Bill.  We could call her Giannetta (Jane).

Also travelling with us was a middle-aged woman in a nice yellow linen dress; unfortunately the colour didn't suit her at all.   She sat on my right, next to the door, and spent the journey reading a book in Italian...or perhaps French.   Across from her sat a young man in military dress.  The white colour made me guess Navy, but he also had an odd gold baton suspended from a strap around his waist.  I've no idea what that was about but it looked a right nuisance to wear.  He spent the journey texting on his mobile phone.

Another man joined the car, just before we left the platform, filling the last seat on my left, at the window.  I noticed he had a very flat stomach when he placed his suitcase in the rack over my head.  He sat on my left, next to the window, across from the girl.  His jeans were nearly identical in weave to hers and he wore a white polo shirt.  His face and arms were deeply tanned, as were his strong-looking hands, which of course he gestured with when speaking.  His was a plain-ish face, spare of flesh and dominated by his nose.  Soon after sitting, he bent over and retrieved our train tickets from the floor, where Bill had dropped them.  I gave him a small gold star.  He offered, in Italian, to exchange seats with the girl, indicating the small fold down table would give her left arm a place to rest.  I gave him a big gold star for that.  We could call him Giovanni (John).

Giannetta gave him a delicious smile, but declined the kind offer.  The conversation began.  He asked about her; she answered slowly.  Her deep, lazy voice made me think of warm chocolate syrup.  When the conversation lulled, I hoped they would find a way to revive it.   Both seemed to contribute, you could almost see them thinking up new topics.  I imagined he asked her how she broke her arm.  Bill later told me this was the case.  She fell off her motorscooter.  (I didn't know Bill spoke Italian...?)  Seeing Giovanni gesture with his hands, I wondered if her broken arm limited her ability to express herself.  Giannetta seemed pretty laid back, except for the sparkle in her eye.  At one point I was amused to watch her body language.  She had one leg extended across to Giovanni's side of the aisle, the other foot on a ledge under the window, her left arm raised above her head to relieve the discomfort; she could have been reclined in bed!  (Watching body language is, I think, a higher level of people-watching, one of my favourite frugal hobbies.)

Then Giovanni seemed to speak more and more about himself and she asked him questions.  When things grew quiet they both consulted their mobile phones.  At one point he made a couple of calls and seemed to be making arrangements or verifying something.  I was hoping they would find a way to keep in touch.  I was amazed when they both got off the train at Chiavari, a town about halfway between LaSpezia and Genoa (Genova).   As the train pulled out, they were standing together, smiling, and talking with some other people about their age.  I had decided this was an impromptu decision and, being a romantic, I made it his.  I was all set to snap their picture together, but I pushed the wrong button on my camera.  Probably just as well.  

Then, when others got on and filled their vacated seats, it dawned on me that Chiavari had been both of their destinations all along, as those seats will have been reserved by the present occupiers some time back.  So maybe Chiavari is a popular seaside town for Italians, worth checking out on a future visit. Who knows, we might even run into Giovanni and Giannetta (and their kids, who will probably be in school by the time we get back there).

Do you like people watching as much as I do?


Boywilli said...

The young man in white was an officer in the Italian Navy. He got out at the main Naval base at La Spezia. The thing he was wearing on a lanyard round his neck was a ceremonial dagger.
I am not that good at speaking Italian but I recognised a few words "moto" is fairly universal

Anonymous said...

You can tell so much about another by what they say, how they behave, what they wear, and their body language.

I don't people watch as much as I'd like to - mainly people here dislike being looked at if you don't know them.

Struggler said...

Yes, definitely, people-watching should be an Olympic sport!

Shelley said...

Jersey Mom - Interesting comment about people not liking to be looked at. Staring is bad manners, true, but I spent that train journey reading a book, writing my notes taking pictures out the window and only gave the occasional glance up to verify bits of info. My theory is that if you are in public, you are 'observable'...I stop short of peering in people's windows!