Catching a ride

This item appears on page 55 of the November 2011 issue.

Tell ITN about the funniest thing that ever happened to you while traveling in a foreign country. (ITN prints no info on destinations in the United States.) There are no restrictions on length. The ITN staff will choose each month’s winner, who will receive a free one-year subscription to ITN. Entries not chosen cannot be acknowledged.

This month’s winner is GLENN SCHMIDT of Sun Prairie, WI:


It’s a beautiful afternoon in Sorrento, Italy, in November ’09 as we board the last ferry of the day to Naples.

“Mr. Glenn, Mr. Glenn,” a man in uniform shouts as he walks up and down the aisles of the ferry. I reluctantly raise my hand. The man is agitated. “You left your credit card at the ticket counter,” he says.

It’s at least a quarter mile back to the counter. I stand up, and as I’m about to get off the boat I ask him, “You’re going to wait for me, aren’t you?”

The ferry is already late leaving port. “You must hurry” is his cryptic reply.

I sprint down the pier at full speed. Well, at first, at least. While I do a lot of walking, running these days is pretty rare, for me. By the time I reach the ticket office I’m puffing like a freight train. Good thing I don’t have to say anything to the ticket lady. She just pushes the card under the window when she sees me.

Turning back to the pier, the ferryboat is still there but looks like it’s five miles away. I’m still breathing hard and my heart is pounding. I spot a young guy on one of those ubiquitous mopeds heading away from the pier. I step in front of him and hold up my hand.

He looks at me quizzically, seeing a slightly deranged old man with a breathing problem. I point to the ferry, tap the seat and, not hearing ‘No,’ get on behind him.

He wheels the bike around and we start hurtling down the pier at breakneck speed, darting around debris and fishermen. There are no foot pegs on the back, so my legs dangle in the air like a frog’s and I grab the young driver’s shirt to keep from flipping off.

As we close in on the ferry it looks like he’s going to take me right up the gangplank. At the last second he brakes and turns left sharply, skidding to a stop right next to the captain of the ship.

Grateful to be alive, I leap off the back and dig into my pocket for some euros. Grinning broadly, the driver waves me off, revs up the engine and disappears back the way we came. Now we each have a story to tell.

I step onto the boat to a round of applause.