My Favorite Bag Lady* in Milan


This is from yesterday night before my head hit the pillow, heavily:

Well, we’re here. We’re in Milan. It’s been a helluva long day, with some downright lows (neither of the husband’s bags made it here because of a too-short connection in London, so we’re just hoping they appear mysteriously in the night), but I had a couple nice moments that just made my day. The final one is what I wanted to share with you.

Because we’re here for six weeks, and because I’m not the best packer under normal circumstances, I had with me today two carry-on bags and two checked bags. Wheeling these through an airport is not a big deal, but getting from Malpensa Airport to our hotel required no less than three train changes (two of them being on the Milan Metro) and lots of stairs. By the time I emerged from the last Metro stop to begin the trek down Viale Umbria toward the hotel, my arms were already screaming ENOUGH at me.

I took lots of breaks, stopping alongside the sidewalk to rest my arms and catch my breath, and (uncharacteristically for me) not caring what I looked like to anyone else. I am quite sure I looked like a sweaty and dissheveled tourist with too much luggage, but I can’t get too annoyed at that – because that’s precisely what I was.

At any rate, the last block to the hotel was the longest one, and at one point when I’d stopped to rest an older woman who I had noticed come out of the Supermarket (that’s what it was called) down the street came up behind me. She was pushing a shopping cart with a few bags of her groceries in it, moving it gingerly down the sidewalk (which, it should be said, was half torn up from some kind of pipe replacement they’re doing – it was like a friggin obstacle course for me). In Italian, she asked where I was going. When I told her, she said, “That’s very near my house. Why don’t we put one of your bags across the top of my cart and I’ll help you there?”

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So that’s what we did. I balanced one of the bags across the top of the grocery cart, seriously hoping that it didn’t come unbalanced and crash into the cart, and the two of us moved slowly down the sidewalk until the corner where I only had another 30 meters to my hotel and she kept going to her house. It was the craziest and kindest gesture, and I’m sure made for an incredibly funny picture. Folks, if I’d had an extra hand I’d have gotten a photo for you. Of course, if I’d had an extra hand I wouldn’t have had so damned much trouble with all those bags… But really, all I kept thinking as I glanced behind me, checking on the progress of my new friend and my bag:

God, I love this country.

* I wanted to note that the reason I refer to my helper as a “bag lady” is not because she’s a homeless person, but because she helped me with my bag. Just in case anyone was confused.

Photo by: love by N