In Which I Have The Upper Body Strength of A 12-Year-Old Boy

Tensions are running high here in Italy. With the volatile mixture of 14 girls, one head-in-the-clouds professor, and one illicit student teacher romance (more or less) (less), we were bound to hit a breaking point. We could tell it was coming when our would-be five hour class day turned into ten last Wednesday at the contemporary art museum. Low blood sugar nearly caused a couple girls to collapse in the pile of sludge on the museum floor that was supposed to represent the artist’s struggle with his geopolitical identity or something. Our teacher Wendy remained unconcerned, due in large part to the dozens of sandwiches she had hidden in the folds of her clothing. By the time we got home, we only had enough energy to swallow a couple pizzas whole and collapse into a fitful sleep. 

We figured the only way to diffuse the tension was to talk to her. As a practiced rhetorician, eloquent public speaker, and honorary green belt in martial arts, I volunteered to broach the subject with Wendy after lunch. What I imagined was a democratic discussion regarding the group’s main concerns. What happened was more like if you have ever seen a lion attack a gazelle in the wild and then pick its teeth with the bones. 

Contemporary art museums are a lot like a playground for adults, except you can’t laugh or touch anything or wait to leave. We went again today. By the time our 2-4:30 class hit the 6 o’clock mark, even the video loop installation of J-Lo crying couldn’t cheer us up. On the bumpy bus ride home, we swayed from the the overhead railings and scowled.

In Italy, cars are smaller. They don’t need as much room to reverse, parallel park, or nearly graze your toes as they zip pass you on a busy street. I’ve seen drivers here pull stunts previously only dreamed of by dudes in white satin scorpion jackets. The only parking strategy I’ve been able to pick up on is this: 1) Pull off onto a side street. 2) Abandon your car in the middle of the street like this is some episode of the Walking Dead. Our bus made the fatal mistake of turning onto a tiny road crammed with cars lining either side. It screeched to a halt, with no where to go and no way to turn back. The bus was stalled in the road and traffic was lining up behind us.

And that was when we reached our breaking point. It all hit us at once: the crazy professor, the 11 hour days, the hunger, exhaustion, and a week’s worth of pent-up anger and frustration—and now, this stupid SmartCar that was the the only thing standing between us and finally getting home.

That raw desperation was the only reason I can think of as to why, without hesitation, the fourteen of us marched off of the bus into the street and managed to successfully PUSH the car out of our way. 

We got back on the bus to the sound of cheers. Turns out the release of tension we needed wasn’t a civil discourse with an administrative professional. It was the adrenaline that comes from lifting a car over your head with your bare hands.