A 5-minute set I did at The Stand in NYC.

25 April 2015. Brussels, Belgium

I cringed slightly as I took the picture. Up until that point, it was the creepiest picture I had ever taken. Sadly, in less than an hour, it was going to become the second creepiest picture I had every taken.

The picture was of Manneken Pis. I was in Brussels and my companion, friend, and tour guide, Sebastian, a fellow 8th Floor alumni, was showing me around his city.

As we walked around the downtown area, Sebastien shared with me what he had learned in the two years that he had lived in Belgium.

Neither French Nor Freedom Fries

He shared the various Belgian foods that were popular: beer, chocolate, waffles, and my favorite, French Fries. Although to call them French Fries in Belgium is quite insulting.

I was told that fries were invented in Belgium, and it’s clear that today they are still a big part of their culture, with their tiny forks and myriad of dipping sauces to choose from.

The story goes that, during World War II, American soldiers came to Belgium and fell in love with the fries.

However, the Americans weren’t very good at geography, so they assumed that because the Belgians were speaking French, they must be in France. And thus upon their return to the states, referred to the delicious potato treats as French Fries… something the Belgians have not yet forgotten.

Maury Povich of Statues

Brussels BuildingAnother great story, though one likely made up by high school students, was that of a series of statues in one of the squares. 

There, atop one of the buildings, is a statue of a woman holding a baby, but instead of looking at the baby, the woman is looking at another statue.

Supposedly, she is looking at the other statue, that of a man, as if to say, “you are the father of this baby.” That statue, however, is pointing to a third statue, as if to say, “No, he is the father.” Statue #3 is pointing to a fourth statue, who’s looking down, to say, “Yes, he is in fact, the father.

At this point, I started to wonder how true these stories actually were, but ultimately didn’t care as they were thoroughly entertaining.

The Story of the Weird Statue

However, my favorite story brings us back to Manneken Pis and the awkward picture I had just taken.

The great story attempts to answer the question: how did a 3-foot bronze statue of a little boy peeing become the icon of an entire city?

And when I say little boy, I mean little. Not a 10-year-old but a 4- or 5-year-old. And when I say icon, I mean it’s a place where tourists flock with their selfie sticks to take pictures of themselves with a boy peeing in the background.

Mannekin Pis

I don’t know if that just speaks to the uniqueness of the statue or perhaps people’s lack of imagination for other things to do in Brussels, but alas, here I was still in front of the peeing boy, still taking a picture.

The reason for the iconic statue isn’t exactly known, but there are plenty of stories to say why it’s so important, and that’s what I love about the statue.

Some stories are more mundane, such as a witch found the boy peeing on her property so she turned him into a statue, or a father, who had lost his son, promised to erect a statue of his boy in whatever pose he found him in.

There were also a number of stories turning the boy into a hero. One story suggests that the statue was meant to honor a boy who had discovered an effective way of warding off enemy soldiers: by standing in a tree and peeing down on them. Another said that there was a bomb in the city and the little boy had peed on the fuse to prevent it from going off.

But my favorite story was a little bit more elaborate. It claims that there was a great fire way-back-when in Brussels that tragically happened during a great drought. The townspeople didn’t have any water and so they had no way to put the fire out. The town was doomed… until this little boy decided to put the fire out by peeing on it.

Now of course the boy didn’t have enough pee to put the whole thing out, duh, so he had to constantly drink beer so that he could maintain a steady stream to extinguish the fire.

Not only is it a hero story but also one that includes the Belgian beer.

One other great tidbit about the statue is that at one point, French soldiers stole the statue from the town. Later, Louis XVI decided to give the statue back, and as a way to apologize, gave the statue a metal honor. Meaning, anytime a French soldier passes the statue of the little boy peeing, they must give it a salute.

But alas, the tale does end there. For the last stop on our tour of downtown Brussels was where I took the new creepiest picture I had taken, of yet another statue.

This statue depicted a little girl peeing in a squatting stance, weirdly behind a fenced-in area. It was a companion piece to Manneken Pis, but for obvious reasons, wasn’t nearly as popular. It also sadly didn’t have any cool stories to go along with it, other than, “I guess we should make a girl one too?”

Jeanneke Pis (and the Weirdest Picture I've Ever Taken)

25 April 2015. Amsterdam, Netherlands

My boots landed with a heavy thud as I ran down the Amsterdam street. With every step I took, every move I made, I was missing Biggie Smalls… but also making my way closer to Central Station in Amsterdam.

I had just finished a standup show at Boom Chicago in Amsterdam. It had gone really well; the audience was a mix of expats and Dutch people and they had enjoyed my nerdy brand of humor. I had spent much of the time after the show conversing with people and talking with a few booking agents about possibly coming back to Europe to do more shows.

Those conversations delayed me till after midnight and I was now 12 minutes away from Central Station with the next train leaving in 10 minutes. If I missed the train, I was spending the next 90 minutes or so in Central Station waiting for the train to Utrecht.

I was staying in the Amsterdam suburb because I had discovered on AirBNB there was a houseboat that I could stay on, and I figured if I’m in Amsterdam, why stay in a regular hotel when I can stay on a boat in a canal.

The houseboat itself had been really nice, the bed was small but the shower was surprisingly bigger than the showers I experienced in other spots in Europe so far. The problem with the boat was that it was 40 minute train ride from Amsterdam Central Station, and and even longer wait if I missed the next train.

So my boots hit heavy on the ground as I continued to make my way towards the station.

As I ran, I’d take a few pauses to cross streets against the traffic lights. Not to avoid cars but to avoid getting hit by one of the way too many bikes that were still out on the street even though it was after midnight.

The number of bikes in Amsterdam was crazy. Everything that people normally do walking, people in Amsterdam do while cycling: hold hands, carry umbrellas, take up too much space on the sidewalk. Everything.

So I made sure I was cautious in my hurried movements. At one point, I noticed a nice picturesque view of a canal. It was my first night in Amsterdam so I stopped to take a picture, thinking that even if I miss the train, it was probably worth capturing the moment. Maybe (said picture is at the top of this post).

I then picked up the pace on my jog the Central Station, arriving with two minutes to spare but still in need of getting a train ticket. Luckily I had been in the train station quite a few times and knew the process, but as I arrived, I saw only crowded ticket kiosks.

I decided to take a calculated risk and got on the train, sans ticket (sorry, Mom). In my previous trip from Central Station to Utrecht, no one ever checked my ticket. And I figured that if I was caught, I could plead ignorance as a dumb American and hopefully get by with puppy dog eyes.

Fortunately I didn’t have to use these lyin’ eyes as I made it all the way to Utrecht without incident. I had successfully left Boom, crossed a bridge, and made it to the boat.

19 April 2015. Stavanger, Norway

I casted my line out into the water. The lore made a “plop” sound, much like an Oreo does when you accidentally drop it into your chocolate milk.

I’d finally gotten the hang of fishing without a bob after many many attempts. I was in Norway, enjoying a gorgeous day, standing on the side of a pond. It was private property, but I was assured that the owners (probably) didn’t mind we were there.

There were five of us comedians total. We had all performed in the touMAZEing Comedy Festival in Stavanger. A few people had wanted to go fishing, and on a last-minute whim, I decided to join them. I didn’t have anything else that I needed to do that day and hadn’t been fishing in at least 10 years, so I thought, “Sure, why not?”

The other comedians with me were hilarious people. Two of them were Norwegian natives. Tom Weum specializes in musical comedy, known for his ability to work with kids and also the creator of great song parodies. The other Norwegian, Pål Espen Mulder Kilstad, is an actor and dad in the area and was quite the outdoorsman.

Comedian #3 was Tim FitzHigham, a British comedian known for sailing across the English Channel in a bathtub. And #4 was an Argentinian comedian, Adrián Minkowicz, now based in Norway.

So there we were. 5 comedians, fishing for 4 hours, using a total of 3 rods, in 2 different locations, and we caught… 1 fish. Not even a big fish, a small trout about 6 inches long.

Fishing in Norway(The one who hooked the fish? Adrián.)

Afterwards, we took the fish back to Tom’s house where his sons were already cooking some delicious burgers for us. We threw the fish on the grill along with the burgers and I had an internal battle as to whether or not I’d eat some of it.

I’m not much of seafood person; I don’t like the texture, taste, smell, or sight of fish but other than that… And still, I decided I had to at least taste the spoils of our hard work.

I took a small bite of the trout and was pleasantly surprised that it didn’t taste too fishy (which has always been a little weird to me, the taste of a good fish is that it doesn’t taste like fish).

Prior to this outing, I had always considered fishing to be on the more boring side of leisure activities, right up there with watching plants grow (aka gardening) and watching plants die (aka gardening). But when you’re out with four other comedians making jokes and doing bits, time certainly does fly by.

Maybe that’s what made the fish taste better. I didn’t want to think that I wasted four hours outside and got nothing in return. Instead, I picked up great tips, great stories, and a whole bunch of laughs from the other comedians.

I’m told the next time I come back to Stavanger, I’ll be treated to a proper game dinner with reindeer that’s freshly been hunted, prepared the right way, that takes a day to make, and a couple of hours to thoroughly enjoy.

I’m already looking forward to the return trip.

Comedians Fishing

11 April 2015. Columbus, OH

I looked around the room at the 30+ people playing the warm up Kitty in the Corner. Everyone participating was at least 18 years old and having an incredibly fun time.

I was the oldest person in that room (by just a few weeks). I was also one of the reasons they were in that room to begin with.

I was in Columbus, OH, having returned for the 8th Floor Alumni Weekend. The 8th Floor, an improv comedy group me and 5 other friends started while at The Ohio State University, was still going strong. One of the many traditions, along with others like music making you lose control and unique birthday celebrations, was that every year there was a reunion weekend where as many of the groups’ alumni return for socializing, practicing, and performing.

As one of the founders, I try to return as often as I can, not just to see old friends and group members, but to also to check in on the group.

This was the 11th year of the group’s existence as the premier improv comedy group on Ohio State’s campus, and while we never really imagined it getting this big, we selfishly wanted the group to survive as long as possible. After all, it’s part of the legacy we’ve left at OSU.

The whole thing started while playing Halo (the video game). My best friend wanted to start an improv group… so we did. We started as 6 friends practicing in the basement of Residence Halls. By the time I graduated 2 years later, we were a cast of 16 performing twice a week at a black box theater on South Campus.

5 of the 6 founders.

5 of the 6 founders.

After the founders left is when the group really took off. Some very smart people came into the group and got them performing at Freshmen Orientation. Immediately every on campus knew who the group was. Now, 11 years later, it was one of the established things to do on campus, with shows selling out 150+ seat auditoriums.

Tonight was about celebrating that history. In just a few minutes we’d head upstairs to the theater in the Union, where we’d do long-form sets as teams mixed of all generations of the group.

But for the moment, kitty was in the corner, and he went that way.

28 March 2015. Richmond, VA

I stepped out into center stage, or as we call it, the middle of the playing field. The stage lights shined brightly in my face. The loyal fans eagerly awaited what I had to say.

I was performing in a ComedySportz match, playing one of my favorite types of games, with some of my favorite people.

The people were fellow managers of other CSz Teams from around the country. ComedySportz is produced by CSz Worldwide and can be found in 25 different cities in the United States and in the UK and in Germany.

The show is improv comedy played as a sport, where 2 teams go back and forth in game-based improv, where the fans help decide on a winning team. More so than any show that I’ve ever been a part of, ComedySportz is about celebrating the fans who come to see the show, making them the starts of the night as opposed to the performers on stage.

We were all in Richmond, VA for a Shareholders’ Meeting, where all of the managers from the individual cities get together once a year and talk about business strategies, city updates, and general tomfoolery. For the past few years, I had been taking an increased role in those meetings helping the lead branding committee and serve on the executive council.

This was a bittersweet meeting in Richmond because I was stepping away from a lot of those duties as part of this nomad adventure that I was going on.

Back on stage, the show continued on. Thus far it had been a blast, not a surprise when you’re playing with incredibly talented improvisers, many of whom have more than 20 years of improv experience.

The game I so loved was called Celebrity Punishment, a jump-out style game that includes making puns based off of celebrity names, much like Garth from Wayne’s World (“If she were a president, she would be Baberham Lincoln”). Like all ComedySportz games, Celebrity Punishment starts by getting a suggestion from the audience, for this game, the name of a celebrity.

I was stepping out to make a pun based off of the suggestion of Bruce Willis. I took a breath and then shared, “If Bruce Willis was a mediator, he’d be Truce Willis.” The audience mostly laughed.

I stepped back, while my fellow managers and players stepped in sharing their own jokes on Bruce.

I couldn’t help but marvel at the fun that ComedySportz is; it’s one of the funnest shows I’ve ever done and I’ve had the privilege of doing it since I joined CSz New York in 2008.

It’s also given me a ton of opportunity within the corporate world. I’ve helped lead a number of workshops at a number of different organizations in applied improvisation. Much of what I’ve learned in training and performance can be attributed to the people on the stage with me.

I bring my focus back to the match just as the suggestion changes. It’s now Britney Spears. A few managers share their lines before I step out and say, “if Britney Spears were more advanced she would be Britney Bow and Arrow.”

The audience groans in delight at the terrible joke. Admittedly, I take delight in a groan as much as a laugh. The suggestion changes to JFK.

I step forward, “If JFK had come a little bit later, he’d be GES.”

I’m definitely going to miss this.

24 March 2015. Over New York, NY

I sat anxiously in my seat. The plane I was on from Geneva was going to be landing at JFK in a short while.

The pilot was making an announcement over the intercom about fastening your seat belts and the like as my anxiety increased. I wasn’t anxious because of flying or the upcoming landing. I didn’t typically get nervous for those things.

I was anxious because I was watching a movie and I was worried that I wasn’t going to be able to finish it before the plane landed. The very important movie I was so heavily invested in was the classic, In Time, starring Justin Timberlake.

The premise is, that in the future, there is no currency except for time. You can trade it and it’s what you earn at work; the rich people have tons of it and poor people have very little of it. But when it runs out, you’re out of time aka out of life.

I had selected the movie after already having watched Birdman and doing some work. I had long ago justified to myself that flights were the perfect time to watch movies you wouldn’t normally watch. You were already being “productive” by moving from one spot to another, so you might as well veg out.

The problem with movie selection, however, is if you start a film too late, you may never see the end of it. I was worried that had happened and was waiting for the pilot to stop talking so I could start watching again.

Eventually the pilot wrapped up his English portion of the safety announcement… before launching into the German version of it. Then a moment or two later, the French version of it. The disadvantage of traveling internationally.

After he finished, the movie started to pick up again at the intense point where Will (Justin Timberlake) and Sylvia (Amanda Seyfried) are escaping the Minutemen and I can tell the movie is starting to get to the climax and, hopefully, resolution when the pilot comes on yet again, this time talking about the freaking weather.

There’s nothing more frustrating than your movie being interrupted to hear about the weather, save for hearing about said weather in three different languages.

I felt myself getting more anxious, ironically feeling like Justin Timberlake’s character in the movie, wondering if I was running out of time to actually watch “In Time”, the movie, “in time” before the plane landed.

(As a side note, perhaps my favorite part of the movie was that the writers decided to work in as many time-related puns and phrases as possible. If their writing was food, I’d go back for seconds…)

The announcement finished and the movie started to wrap up. And just as the wheels hit the ground, the credits rolled. Just in tim(b)e(rlake).

19 March 2015. Dijon, France

I was looking over a wide assortment of pastries behind curved glass when the barista said, “Bonjour.”

I was in the train station in Dijon, about to take a train to Geneva, and was looking for a delicious way to start off my day. I had been practicing for this moment for the last 15 minutes.

I was in France and was ready to try using French. Partly because I was hoping I had learn something on this trip and partly because I didn’t want to get another rude response back.

In both France and Italy I had experienced a little bit of frustration whenever I would ask, “Do you speak English?” People would begrudgingly respond, “A little bit,” or, “Yes,” or, “If I have to.”

I know it’s a stereotype for Americans to come to Europe and be mad that people don’t speak American, but I had tried to be nice in all of my encounters. But I wanted to try so I told myself I was going to make the attempt to speak in French.

I figured something as simple as a transaction, such as this, I could actually pull off.

After the barista started with, “Bonjour,” I responded with “Je voudrais pain au chocolate et de l’eau.” Phonetically, the way I said it, was “Jay voo dras pawn ah choc-o-lat et de lay ooh.”

The barista smiled and replied, “Your French is very good.” And for a split second I thought, “Wow, it is really good because I understood that!” And then realized she said it in English and was making fun of me.

I smiled and said, “Merci.”

While she got my food, I realized that your French has to be really, really bad if, when you speak French, they respond to you in English because they’d rather have to speak English than hear you butcher their language.

Truth be told, I wasn’t that upset. I had practiced my French like I wanted to, I got my pain au chocolat, and I had discovered an effective way to get French people to willingly speak in English to me. Not bad for a single transaction.

14 March 2015. Monza, Italy
Read Kidnapped in Italy? Part 1.

Paola lived at an apartment complex off a side street in Monza. The door was inset 3 or 4 feet from the sidewalk, giant slabs of concrete the color of carbon copy paper holding the whole thing up.

I walked to the front door of the complex and took out the key that she had made specifically for me just earlier that day. She normally didn’t have a spare set but she thought it was about time to get keys made for when she had guests over.

I tried the first key and it didn’t even fit into the lock. Naturally I wasn’t going to get the right key on the first try, so I tried the second.

This one fit but did not turn the handle at all; it wasn’t like it was getting caught, it just didn’t work. I tried both of the keys again but to no avail.

On the outside, I tried to stay calm and collected. On the inside, I started to freak out a little bit more. It was now close to 02:00, and Paola or not, without a way to get into her apartment complex, I was left on the streets of Monza during the witching hours. And given that it was Europe, they might have actually had witches.

So I sent Paola yet another message to say I was locked out. Yet again, sent, delivered, unread.

As I stood befuddled with her keys in my hand, I noticed the apartment listing board on the left side, containing the names and apartment numbers of the tenants who lived there. The board was filled with Italian last names so it read more like a menu in Little Italy than it did a listing of people who lived there. There were buttons next to each name that you could ring so they could let you in.

Paola’s last name wasn’t on the list.

At this point I would have thought surely I had gone insane, but fortunately, the night before, Paola had shared a story about the board.

She told me about how she had moved in not too long ago and she had realized that her name wasn’t included on the listing. A few days prior, she and her mom had done a test to find out which buzzer was her’s. They had gone through and buzzed every single door to find out which one buzzed her apartment.

She had found out which one it was, one of the ones on the right side, somewhere in the middle. She had put her name on top of it using a sticky note. The next day, the note had been taken down and she had learned that it was the buzzer to the super’s room but one that she could hear ring in her own apartment.

I remembered the story and remembered approximately where she had pointed, but not exactly which button, so I was going to have to guess. I knew it was 2:00 in the morning and I was likely to wake up a few unhappy neighbors, but I didn’t really have any other options.

I prepared myself knowing that I may have to speak Italian. I don’t really know any Italian but I did remember that Paola had told me that that “prego” basically means everything polite: please, thank you, sorry, etc.

I decided that if I got the wrong person, I’d just say “prego” and move on. I took my first guess and pressed the third buzzer down from the top. There was no response. I buzzed it again, still no response.

So I tried the second button down and there was a long pause. I started to press the button again when a woman’s voice came on that was definitely not Paola (it was much older and very tired sounding). The voice startled me and in my nervousness, instead of saying “prego,” I said the other ‘p’ word I associate with Italy: “Parmesano.”

There was silence on the other side and I decided not to say anything else and just moved on.

I tried the fourth button down. After 20 seconds or so I heard a man’s voice say “ciao” or something, I didn’t know, he said something in Italian and I was nervous.

Realizing that I’m an idiot and can’t speak any Italian, I replied in English, “I am locked out. I am staying with Paola and I’m locked out of the front.” He said something else in Italian, so I tried again, this time even dumber, “Paola, friend, here to see her. Locked out.”

It’s at that moment that I got a buzz on my phone. I took a look and saw that my messages had been read on WhatsApp and I had just received a message from Paola that just said “Wait a secondl.”

At this point I felt a bit relieved. Paola was now up and she hadn’t been in a car crash, kidnapped, or otherwise killed.

Of course it was 2:00 in the morning, I was tired and had been working myself up the whole time about possibilities of what happened, so my ridiculous possibilities weren’t yet completely exhausted.

“What if it’s not just Paola? What if there are kidnappers that are back at her place and I’ve now woken them up and the guy that was on the buzzer is one of them and now they’re going to come and get me as well.”

I decided to take a couple steps back from the door, thinking that if someone opened the door and it wasn’t Paola, I could just take off running.

I still didn’t know what the gun laws were in Italy but I hoped they didn’t have a gun and, at worse, had a knife and that’ was something I could run away from.

I heard someone on the other side of the door, so I took a few more steps back to the point that I was standing in the middle of the street, ten feet back from the door as it opened.

On the other side was Paola with clearly disheveled hair and grogginess in her eyes.

“Drew I am so sorry. I fell asleep.”

I peaked behind her to make sure there was no one standing behind in the hallway making her talk. The hallway was empty.

“Oh it’s no problem. It’s fine,” I replied as I walked toward the building. “How did you wake up?”

“The buzzer I guess, I don’t know, I guess it works for both my apartment and my super’s apartment. I heard the buzzer and woke up and checked my phone and saw all of your messages and I’m so sorry. I wasn’t feeling well so I laid down to take a nap and then slept through my alarm.”

“It’s OK,” I said as I walked slightly on heightened pins and needles until we got back to our apartment, just making sure that again, there was no one there waiting for us.

We got to her apartment which was as it had been when I left earlier that day: no kidnappers in (or out of) sight.

14 March 2015. Milan, Italy

A few days after my getting murdered scare (and by “getting murdered scare” I mean “me being an idiot”), I found myself at Teatro EDI Barrio’s, south of the Milan capital.

I had just finished watching an improv show which had been a lot of fun. It was entirely in Italian, which I know very little of, but I was still able to get a general sense of what was going on based on years of experience seeing and performing improv.

They had a second show that evening I wanted to see since it was going to be short-form improv, but the trains in Milan only run until midnight and I didn’t want to get caught an hour away from where I was staying in Monza with no real way of getting home.

Because of the weirdness of the trains late at night, Paola told me to get to Sesto station where she’d pick me up and drive the rest of the way. So I sent Paola a message on WhatsApp to say I was leaving, and then left the theater to catch a bus to get to the subway station to take a subway to get to Milano Centrale to take to a train to get to Sesto where Paola was going to pick me up.

If you’ve never used WhatsApp it’s a phenomenal app. It’s basically like text messaging but you can text any person in the world, regardless of where they are, with no fees. It’s also different in that it gives you three levels of notifications for each text you send: when it has been successfully sent to their server, when it has been successfully delivered to the recipient’s phone, and when it has been read by the recipient.

I completed my various transfers and was on the final train to Sesto when I decided to see where I should meet Paola when I arrived. I sent off the WhatsApp message and saw that it had been sent and delivered, but not read. The same was true of my previous message.

I thought little of it, assuming she was driving to the train station to meet me and was being a good driver by not texting and driving.

I arrived at the station just after midnight and sent Paola a third message to say I had arrived. Like the previous two, they were sent and delivered, but not read.

I thought maybe her phone had died and that she might already be there but just unable to communicate, so I walked around trying to guess what kind of car she drove. After about 10 minutes of creepily staring into strangers’ car windows, I decided she wasn’t there.

I started to worry a little bit about how I was going to get home. I pulled out my phone and entered Paola’s address thinking maybe I could walk to her place. Distance: 8.1km. Being a typical American, I had no idea what that was in freedom units, but according to Google Maps it was a 90 minute walk. In a foreign country. At 00:15 in the morning.

I looked around to think about what to do when I noticed the train board. I thought all the trains stopped running after midnight but there was one last train from my location to the Monza, Italy stop, which was only five minutes away from Paola’s place.

The only problem was that it wasn’t going to arrive for another 35 minutes, but given the alternatives, it didn’t seem so bad.

I sent Paola another message just to see if she was on her way, but also to let her know that I had found a train I could take instead. Sent, delivered, unread.

I had to wait. While I waited, a couple of things happened.

First, I saw an Italian couple get into a pretty heated argument. They were arguing very loudly in Italian, gesturing violently, and at one point I was fearful that one might start hitting the other.

They moved around while arguing, taking turns leading in a potentially dangerous tango of domestic violence. As they moved from the parking lot to the waiting area to the parking lot again, all of the other patrons would casually move away.

The whole thing seemed pretty intense but no one else seemed to be bothered. And to be fair, I don’t speak any Italian, so it’s possible that they were just having a normal conversation and speaking with their hands. A lot.

Eventually they went away and that’s when the second thing happened: I started to think.

The whole thing seemed a bit worrisome, so I worried some.

A number of thoughts started to go through my head because, aside from the getting murdered scare, which again was all in my own head, Paola was incredibly nice, sweet, very accommodating, and not one to just leave me stranded at a train station with no message.

I started to think through the possible scenarios of what could have happened.

The most logical explanation was that she probably fell asleep and didn’t hear her phone buzzing. That’s almost certainly what happened.

And yet… there were other possibilities. None of them good and none of them things I was happy that I thought about.

Ridiculous Possibility #1 was that she hadn’t gotten into a car accident. She didn’t drive a lot because she didn’t own a car; she had a bike that she used instead and tried to rely on public transportation. She had her sister’s car for errands that she was running that day and had agreed to pick me up because she thought it would make things easier.

It was possible that she wasn’t used to driving and my texting had caused her to get distracted and she had run into a pole and was crumpled behind a wheel somewhere.

Morbid I know but it got worse.

Ridiculous Possibility #2 was that she was kidnapped. I don’t know what it is about my paranoia with being violent crime in Italy, maybe I saw Taken and confused Paris with Milan, but I thought maybe she was out walking alone and was kidnapped and that’s why she wasn’t able to answer.

Ridiculous Possibility #3 was that she had a pulmonary embolism and was in a hospital or dead.

Of course they were awful possibilities, and again, I was 99.9% sure that she just fell asleep.

But, of that .1% of the other three options that remained, as morbid as it was, I hoped that it was the pulmonary embolism.

My twisted thinking being: if she was driving along and my text had caused her to crash, I would be at fault, which is terrible of course for her, but also not great for me and my conscience.

But the worst case scenario would be if she was kidnapped because the kidnappers would see on her phone that someone had been texting her and was expecting to come over, and they’d have to come after me to clean up loose ends. And I don’t have a certain set of skills like Liam Neeson.

All highly illogical things but when it’s midnight in a country where you don’t speak the language and you’re waiting for a train, you think about a lot.

Eventually the train came and I got on, took it to the Monza stop, got off, and sent Paola another message to let her know that I’d gotten off of the train and that all was OK. Or so I thought.

Continue to Part 2 >>