Sunday, July 2, 2017: Technology is such a boon to travelers – except when it’s not.
Praise to Garmin for getting us from Montepulciano to Castiglioncello on the Mediterraean coast of Italy. We sailed through small towns and around Siena and Volterra with our pleasant Garmin lady announcing every turn and roundabout. While eating fish and pasta on the main drag of Castiglioncello we turned to Booking.com to find the Residence Macchiaioli. We were attracted by its promise of a pool and free parking. It was a ways out of town, but we had the lovely Miss Garmin to aid us.
Then it came “when it’s not” boon time for technology.
The winding roads above Castiglioncello proved a challenge for that Garmin bitch. The “car” on the display never quite kept up with where the real car was on the road. In a tight spot with many twists and turns, the Garmin stutterer wasn’t always in sync with us. In fairness to her, I don’t always agree and tend to strike out on my own, like down a one-way street the wrong way, which almost resulted in a motorcyclist becoming a bug splatter on our windshield. This came during a grocery shopping trip that took way longer than anticipated – parking nearly impossible to find, identifying and/or finding the foods we wanted complicated by our ignorance of Italian and then spending a frustrating hour trying to find our way back to the condo on the hill above town.
Our rental car was a Citroen, a French automobile that only spoke German when we picked it up in Rome. But the dashboard icons were easy to understand — at least they were until they started to disappear. We missed the fuel gauge most of all. We could still see how fast we were going but had no idea of how far we could go.
The next day, we recruited help to recover the gas gauge. Celina, the gracious hostess at the residence, couldn’t figure it out, but she brought on an international board of consultants. A German woman dragooned from the pool could speak English to me but could not read the owner’s manual, which was entirely in Italian. A Polish vacationer, who now lived in England and spoke some German, brought three languages to the front seat of the car to puzzle over the dashboard. Her husband had only Polish and some English in his linguistic quiver, but language might not have been what hit the target. I had already tried random icon pushing, but he found the right combination and not only brought the gas gauge back to the surface but was able to give the Citroen an English lesson. That was especially helpful in keeping everyone calm (me especially) when the car’s many shrieking alarms sounded. Open a door without setting the parking brake produced the loudest and most disarming blare with the longest and least understood explanation flashing in orange on the German version of the dashboard. At least when it was in English, I knew what I had done wrong. I’m sure the German version emphasized the word “dummkopf” many times, thankfully not translated into English.
While the most modern technology brought the most frustration because of our lack of familiarity, this was a day when the old world piled it on as well. We never got the front door key to work and left a back door unlocked so we could come and go. The gas stove didn’t work until we found the main valve to turn on the supply to the apartment. The water shut off mid-morning, but by “signing” with others at the pool we learned that the problem was throughout the building, not just in our unit. Fortunately, water was restored in time to head off caffeine deprivation and before we had to pantomime toilet activities.
Despite the challenges, we loved the Residence Macchiaioli and stayed for two days, visiting the beach at Cecina, chatting with Celina and checking in with our Polish-English auto whisperer, who responded to a late-afternoon inquiry on how he was doing by answering, “A little drunk, but OK.”