This goes back a while, but I recall how we almost ruined our honeymoon in Venice. My new bride, Chantal, was looking forward to this stop more than any other. Switzerland had been divine. Austria had been wonderful. But Venice was what she was most looking forward to.
We found a lovely pensione in Lido, a picturesque island just across the lagoon from Venice. The stately old house had been converted into a bed-and-breakfast in a postcard neighborhood. Lush trees, flowers, canals, quaint footbridges, and a wrought iron gate gave it a nostalgic, old world charm. Just what you would want for a stay in Venice.
We checked into the pensione with the highest of expectations. Stella – let’s assume that was the owner’s name – was a graceful lady with a professional air. She sat behind her polished wood desk wearing a “customer service smile” calculated to add an elegant touch to the experience. What a classy place to stay.
We had been traveling for about ten days, so we were due for laundry. As we had not seen any laundromats, we asked Stella if they provided such a service.
“Of course. We wash it by machine and dry it out in the fresh Italian breeze.” And all it would cost us is our weight in Lira.
Did we want that ironed? We were wearing shorts and T-shirts at that time of year, so we declined the ironing, thanks just he same.
It was the next day that Stella revealed her secret identity as The Wicked Witch of Lido. She had an employee plop down on our bed three very small plastic bags, stuffed like turkeys with our clothes. It was quite a challenge, but with persistence we were able to pull our clothes out from the bags one by one. More specifically, we pulled our damp, crumpled clothes that had obviously never been caressed by the fresh Italian breeze out from the bags one by one.
Every piece looked like it had been squeezed through a special crumple machine – including underwear that had never wrinkled in the laundry before. She had even found a way to wrinkle our “wrinkle free” shirts.
I was infuriated. I was ready to hit the ceiling. With some apprehension, Chantal let me go downstairs to “reason” with Stella.
I think her smile must have been defective, because “Is not my problem” was the best customer service she could offer through her practiced customer service smile.
I even asked to borrow the iron so that I could iron out the wrinkles that had been so painstakingly added to our clothing.
“This is not a service we provide.”
Although, for another sack of gold she would graciously iron our wardrobe – even the underwear.
In frustration, I stormed back up the stairs. “There’s just no reasoning with that woman!”
So Chantal went downstairs, intending to reason with her more calmly than I apparently was prepared to do. At first, I heard nothing, but as Chantal’s “calmness” grew ever louder, I knew I had to go down to join her.
At long last, Stella helpfully offered us another option: “If you don’t like, you can go to another hotel.”
Finally a useful suggestion from her! So, in a near rage, we began packing our bags. We would find another hotel and continue our trip. So there! Why should our honeymoon be ruined by The Wicked Witch of Lido?
And we almost did stomp off in search of another hotel. But then something miraculous happened: we took leave of our senses, so to speak. We put our anger aside long enough to ask what would be in our own best interest. Did we really want to waste one of our three days in Venice hunting for another hotel, packing our damp clothes, forfeiting some of our hefty hotel deposit, and still fuming (even more, perhaps) about Wicked Witch Stella?
We decided to stay at the otherwise lovely hotel. We shook out our clothes and hung them up to dry all over the room – doors, door handles, the cupboard, bed posts – anywhere that clothes could hang. Most importantly, we consciously decided to stop feeling anger.
Leaving behind our laundry-spangled room for the day, we skipped off to the vaparetto boat to enjoy Venice. Can you believe that one simple decision not to fume had put the spring back into our steps?
Ten years later we wanted to remember the excitement of Venice, not the Wicked Witch’s larceny. Well, as it turns out, we still remember both. She could have spoiled our visit to Venice, but only if we had let her. What a valuable lesson to learn, a lesson that helped inspire me to finally write that book lurking inside me. A decade and a half later, we still remember Wicked Witch Stella, not with anger, but with laughter.
Post script: There is now a “Wash and Clean” just a block away, which I found thanks to the magic of Google Streetview. I guess that’s for the English speaking tourists who aren’t into witches or wrinkled underwear.