If I’m going somewhere on vacation, you can bet that calamity is traveling along right behind.


Venice in the rain. Photography: John McCutcheon
Venice in the rain. Photography: John McCutcheon

For years I have doomed most travel destinations to some form of destruction.  This devastation would occur two weeks to a month after my visit.  It was as if Polly, my poltergeist, was determined to let me know that she was in on the latest horror: not just home freezers, dishwashers, vacuums, car a/cs, IPad crashes, you know, the small stuff. She is in on the major calamities.

The San Francisco earthquake, two weeks after my visit.

The World Trade Center bombing, a month after my visit.

Atoche Train Station bombing, two weeks after my visit.

Aldgate Tube Station bombing, two weeks after my visit.

Katrina Hurricane, a month after my visit.

Arizona wildfires, a month after my visit.

I could list more, but I’m afraid I could be named as a co-conspirator.

Then for a short time the diasters preceded me – Tiananmen Square Massacres.

Alaskan oil spill.

New Mexico wildfires.

Since 2012, I am now on target.  Let me arrive at a destination and the bad luck hits.

South Africa shootings.

The worst snow storm to hit Paris in anyone’s memory.

Everything in the room is afloat.
Everything is going underwater.

But the Grand Prize goes to Venice high tide flooding.  The sixth worst in recorded history. My coat and boots, John’s luggage and camera equipment lay pristinely on the ground floor of the apartment.  Most of my clothes were stacked across two futons.

“Jenny, Jenny!”  My shoulder is moving by someone else’s hand.


“Wake up!”

“I have my ear plugs in. Why.”  I sleep with ear plugs to block out the wild animal mating calls, the roars, the wheezes, the blasts, the staccato howlings of my husband’s snoring.  Sometimes ear plugs are not enough.

“The Eustons are knocking at the door.”

I don’t wake up easily, naturally happy, or helpful.  I wake up naturally grumpy, hateful, begrudgingly, and ready to snap at the first moving object that carelessly penetrates my vision.  I don’t want to answer questions, be alert, move quickly, talk or even attempt to be civil. “What.”  I’m careful not to put any inflection in my voice that gives the least indication that I want to hear an answer.

“The Eustons are knocking at the door.”

“Answer it.”

These are the words I hear:

We are sooo sorry.  But there’s water coming in downstairs.  A loud horn woke us up.  We got up and looked out the windows.  Then about twenty minutes later water started coming in. 

It’s the tide.  High tide.  It’s coming in.  It’s covering the island.  I didn’t hear the horn, but that’s what it is.  It’s warning that the tide is coming in.

I have never been in Venice when the horn went off, but I’m alert enough to recall why it does.

I step into the hall.  Bloody Heeelll … That’s sewer water.  That’s methane.  I’m glad none of us smoke.  We’d light a match and blow ourselves to Split.  Puu Weee!  That stinks!

While I’m located near the bottom of the stairs, I continuously belabor the situation vocally.  John, reticent as usual, swishes back and forth across the ground floor and lifts our belongings over and around me to Greg Euston,who runs lightly up and down the stairs.  His wife Debra has run the tub full of sudsy water.  I remark about her sagacious ability to foresee the need to buy detergent.  “How did you know we would need detergent?  I never buy detergent on a trip.  Aren’t you the smart one.”

All the while Debra on bended knees scrubs our clothes.

Now that I’m awake, fully awake and chatty as a two year old, I have comments about everything:  “Wonder if my boots are wet.  Boy, am I glad I brought another jacket.  Wonder how long it’ll take for my things to dry.  Boy, am I glad we decided to sleep upstairs.  Wonder if we have any diet cokes left.”

Finally after Debra, Greg, and John have done 99% of the work, I add, “John, if you can see my wellies down there and can bring them to me, I’ll help.”  He cut me a wish-you-were- dead look and flops my wellies in my hands.  “Oh, gosh, only my make-up and toothbrush are left.  They didn’t get wet because they were on the shelf in the bathroom.”

I clamor upstairs with a tiny load of toiletries and open a diet coke.  Soon the three of them form a semi-circle around me while I sip at the last diet coke.  “I’ll share.”

Tip:  I wore my sewer soaked leopard print boots.  I got that toenail fungus.  Now I’m undergoing the Listerine treatment.  I should get new toenails next Thanksgiving.



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