Hello all! This is our first Off Beat article, written by someone who isn’t a part of Jumbo Beat normally (Do you get it? Off Beat? Like Off Jumbo Beat but minus the “Jumbo”? We’re clever. It’s fine.). We hope that including outside writers every once in a while will bring some new perspectives and styles to Jumbo Beat. Welcome our guest author, Zander Majercik, a senior at Williams College, who got duped while studying abroad.
I learned a lot during my year abroad. Some of what I learned was even related to academics. But as my final (final?! Fuck!) year gets off the ground, and I reflect on the most important lessons I learned while abroad, I find that the most salient learning experiences are not the academic ones. This probably comes as a surprise to no one, and is even a bit cliché (only a bit?), so let me personalize my ramblings by sharing the most important piece of information I learned while studying abroad: don’t go to Rome.
I’m serious. The Vatican, I’ll grant, is nice. The Colosseum is worth your time. And, you know, the food is fine too. But the entire city, down to the last tour promoter outside the Colosseum, is trying to rip you off. And trust me, if you are a tourist, it will succeed.
Let me give an example: my wonderful girlfriend (I wish there was some way to be assured that she was reading this…) and I were having dinner in a small restaurant with walls painted like views of the Italian countryside, within 500 meters of the Colosseum. We’re sitting across from each other enjoying our liter of house wine with a side of pizza, when a gentleman carrying roses comes in and begins offering them for free to the occupants of various tables in the restaurant. I noticed that everyone else seemed to be refusing his offers, but I stood to gain free roses, and had the perfect woman to give them to sitting across from me, so naturally I accepted his generous offer of three roses. We parted on excellent terms and he continued to the other tables in the restaurant. However, not 10 minutes later, he creeps back over to our table, and holds out his hand as if expecting money! Of course, at first I refused, but the gentleman was quite insistent, and I had to part with three euro for my three roses, which I noticed just then were not so fresh and fair as I previously supposed. What an ordeal! I can certainly vouch for the correctness of the old adage: house-wine-by-the-liter heals all wounds. (Editor’s note: See! A perfect example in which #CarpeVinum applies).
But if that isn’t enough to convince you, let me do one better. I was sitting on a bench in the Piazza del Popolo with the aforementioned girlfriend, pretty and perfect as ever, and another gentlemen offering free roses passes by our bench. This time I am prepared: I know, of course, the roses are not free, but I am prepared to pay for roses as my girl is just as deserving of them now as she was at dinner (if not more so). So, I graciously accept the roses that the gentleman offers us, and of course I am ready with a few euro when he inevitably asks. However, the gentleman keeps requesting more and more until finally he takes 10 euro and walks off without giving me any change! After sitting paralyzed with shock for a few minutes, I go after the man and demand my money back. Being a reasonable man, and not wanting to make a scene in front of the policeman standing 20m off, he gave me back a few euro, and I satisfied myself with that. But really, the nerve! Good thing there was more house wine that night…
So, dear friends, let my tale be a cautionary one. As you have read, I was cheated of my money twice, and through no fault of my own. You have no doubt determined for yourself that nothing could have been done to prevent these or similar occurrences. So, I implore you, if you value your money, do not go to Rome and suffer the same fate as this poor innocent traveler, robbed blind on the banks of Tiber! (Editor’s note: Jeez. Dramatic, much?).