What emergency?

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

The cruise ship Noordam we boarded last summer cost a small fortune, but that’s why I write. Dave takes responsibility for keeping the house intact, paying for prescriptions and groceries, and for vehicular maintenance. My meager wages go into an account labeled “Fun.”

You can imagine there is a lot of overlap. The motor home, for instance: “Fun” or a vehicle? We kinda split that one. In a period of about two years we had to replace the fridge and four tires, then there’s the usual cost of gasoline.

When it comes to really big-ticket items, like the cruise, I figure that’s fun, hence I pay. It bothers me less to swipe a credit card one time for a cruise booking than to buy restaurant meals day in and day out. Dave loves to eat out, so we gave him every opportunity to indulge himself – and us.

“We” were Dave and me, plus our daughter Mary and her Significant Other, German oboist Rainer. It was Mary to whom fell most of the planning and reserving. The plan was to fly from Düsseldorf where Mary now lives, to Italy, spending a couple of days in Firenze (that’s Italian for Florence) and Roma (that’s Italian for Rome.)

Except through the pictures Rainer took of the statuary, buildings, pilgrims, and us, I’m afraid I would have little recollection of Italy. Lugging bags on and off trains and streetcars, not feeling great, always rushing – well, that part of the trip is sort of vague.

And then Dave fell ill. Like most men I know, he just wanted to be left alone. I diagnosed him as having “maybe-flu.” It was so hard for him, nauseated, coughing, just plain being sick, and wishing with all his heart to be home.

Did I mention that it was hot? Extremely hot? The weather was beautiful, but there was never even a haze for relief from the sun. We were in a rather drab-but-expensive hotel room in Rome, not air conditioned, of course. It had two twins and a pull-out couch, and we managed to order a mattress on the floor. Mary’s philosophy is like ours: You don’t travel thousands of miles to look at ceilings (the Sistine chapel being an obvious exception, but no, we didn’t go to see it.)

I got the couch, which felt as though there was a bicycle just under the sheet. Got the desk clerk to round up a mattress for me, and the pedals and sprockets were dispelled.

Day and night, the lighting was never very good and the monstrous beans in the ceiling were all the art in the place.

Nonetheless, we put Dave to bed and left him for an hour or so at a time. He kept asking for ham and cheese sandwiches – which he barfed up almost as soon as he had swallowed the last bite. To this day, you can set him off complaining that we were never in Rome. True for him, I guess. He was definitely in another world.

I was unable to walk a great deal, my own demon at work, I suppose. It was all worth it, just to watch the people and admire the architecture, but I did feel a bit guilty for leaving Dave alone. Needn’t have. He didn’t know if I was there or not.

So. I remembered the travel insurance policy we had taken out on the advice of a travel-agent friend. It cost a lot, but was enough to – to what? Reimburse us if we had to abort the remaining two-thirds of the trip? Pay for hospitalization in Rome? By cab? Getting a flight back to ATL?

I suddenly recalled that I not only didn’t know what travel insurance covered, I had no idea how to go about reaching them. When I contacted them in the first place, they said they don’t issue cards. If you need them for an emergency, just call.

Then I started considering alternatives. Dave had not run a fever so far as we could tell, and he was sleeping, not comatose. Was he better off on that mattress in a dingy warm hotel room two blocks from the Tiber or being dragged all over Rome in 90-degree F. temperatures?

The room had a private modern bathroom; the streets of Rome did not, although some men seemed to think they did. Could he tolerate the typical sprint to catch a train or the typical airport wait? The room at least had an oscillating fan and was dark and quiet.

We chose to wait it out, took him off ham and cheese, and by the time we took the train back to Civitavecchia where we boarded the Holland America cruise ship, he was feeling a lot better.

I think we made the right call. Images of a helicopter swinging a basket over the foredeck to pick him up gradually faded away and by the time we were in the Greek Isles and taking special tours to biblical sites like Ephesus, he was all right, in fact, all righter than I was.

But that’s another story for another day. For now: Ciao!

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