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.