When Glenys Got Sick on the Roman Metro


It was a beautiful summer morning in July. The sky was flawlessly blue, the children upstairs were no longer waking me up at 7:30am with their screams and the sun seemed the paint everything in a brighter hue. I was meeting my boyfriend’s aunt at the train station in order to give back her Swarovski jewelry samples which I had tried to sell to local businesses until it had dawned on me that I am horrible at sales.

I headed out on the train, running late as usual. I had managed to gulp down a demitasse of espresso but had no time for more. It was not until I got on the train that I realized I should have grabbed my Ibuprofen, which is the only medicine which calms my monthly cramps.

“I’m here in Tiburtina, where are you?”

“I’m by the bookstore where we met last time.”

“Really? You do realize that last time we met at Termini, right?”

“Yeah, Termini, that’s where I am.”

“OK, I’ll be there in 20 minutes then.”

“Well, where are you?”

“Oh, I’m nearby, in Tiburtina, you know, the station you wrote in your e-mail. Don’t worry, it’s no big deal. You’re not from Rome and it’s easy to confuse. I’ll ring you when I get there.”

I got back on the same train that had taken me to Tiburtina, only to realize, it did not go to Termini. I took another train back to Tiburtina and hopped on the metro instead. She was at the café when I arrived so we sat and had an orange juice and chatted for a bit. I was feeling better, so I was not too worried, but I stopped in the pharmacy to get my Ibuprofen afterwards, just in case.

metrob gente

I headed to the subway thinking that perhaps I should have eaten something, but I would be home soon, so I thought no more of it. The subway doors opened and I squeezed in as I felt the droplets of sweat begin to collect on my forehead and neck. There was no air-conditioning, the windows were closed and we were packed in the metro-car like cattle. Being mid-July, the heat was sweltering. It was beginning to feel more like being in Bombay than a G8 country.

I felt as though I had been locked up in an oven and the Thanksgiving turkey was still in it. My eyes frantically searched for an empty seat, desperately reading the looks on the passengers’ faces for any sign that one would be exiting soon. Nothing. No one stirred. You could see their sweaty faces dismally staring into space in the misery of the overheated metro car. I felt my body heavy and things were beginning to spin. I recognized this crucial moment, knowing that if I did not find a seat, my body would make the floor a bed.

“Excuse me, can I please sit down, I’m not feeling very well.”, I said, watching the girl pop up out of her seat like a Jack in the Box as a newspaper immediately began to fan me to my right.

“Give her some water!”, came the commanding voice of an elderly man from across as a half-used bottle of warm water was handed to me.

“Thank you.”, I said, trembling uncontrollably as tears streamed down my face.

“Don’t cry, it’s alright.”, said the soothing voice of the fanning girl.

“I know it’s scary to not feel well on a train, but you’ll feel better soon.”, said the girl who gave me her water as she watched me drink some of it down.

The water seemed to help. My body had ceased trembling and my eyes had dried. Everyone was so nice, which helped me relax my nerves. The pain was there but it was bearable. I saw the familiar platform of my stop appear and I felt strong enough to get off the train. I wholeheartedly thanked everyone for their assistance and I walked to a bench in order to cool down further. I counted fifty drops of my liquid Ibuprofen, watching each drop splash in the little water that remained in the bottle. I drank it, fanned myself and rested my head on the pole next to the bench.

“Are you alright?”, asked a young guy dressed in punk attire.

“Yes, I’ll be fine soon, thank you.”, I said.

“How sweat of him to ask…I must look really awful.”, I thought to myself.

After a few moments, I felt cooler and thought myself strong enough to exit the station. As I walked in the long corridor, feeling weaker by the minute, it happened. The ibuprofen, water, orange juice and demitasse of espresso all came gushing out of me . It was not a pretty sight, or at least I didn’t think so.

“Do you need help?”, said a young gentleman who had been walking in my direction.

“Oh how disgusting. I can’t believe I…”, I managed to say before another spurt ejected out of me, followed by another and then still another.

“Here, take my arm, I’ll escort you to the ladies room.”

“Oh thank you, maybe we should call someone to clean that up.”

“Don’t worry about that.”, he said, taking my hand as he lead me to the facilities.

I opened the faucet realizing how precious water really is. We always take water for granted, yet when you need it, you realize it is a treasure. I splashed my face; rinsed my mouth; cupped my hands and drank; wet some paper towels and placed them on my neck, then ran the water over my wrists in order to bring down my body temperature. After I had cooled down, I felt myself back to normal. I refilled the water bottle and, as I exited, I was surprised to find that the guy was still there waiting for me.

“Do you feel better?”

“Yes, much better, thank you so much for your help.”, I said. Then I spotted a maintenance man and explained where he should go to clean up my mess as I apologized for making it in the first place.

I was a little embarrassed now. This guy had not only seen me get sick four times but he also saw my face practically covered in snot which had flowed down my face. I had been a complete disaster so I was quite surprised that he was still sticking around.

“I’m glad you’re feeling better. I’ll accompany you further if you like.”

“No, I’m fine from here, really. Thank you so much.”

“It was nothing. So, it would be great to see you again. Would you like to go out sometime?”



I really do think this would only happen in Italy. Italian men seem to just have one thing on their minds and mere snot and vomit are not enough to alter their desires. On the other hand, it was a real self-esteem booster.

“Uh…no, thank you. I really appreciate your help. You’ve been a real gentleman. Thanks for everything.”, I said and as soon as he was out of sight I laughed all the way home.


I made it home fine and ate something right away. This morning I had planned to take the train to Vetralla and ride my bicycle to the thermal springs nearby. The bike ride is only fourteen kilometers and would be easy on a normal day. However, I woke up feeling like that hot day in July so I decided to stay home and write about it instead.

If anyone who happened to help me that day reads this, please know that I am so very grateful. Thank you.


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  1. WOW!!!!

    The one thing I have always beena fraid of here is if something should happen to me ………

    But fortunately I am black and things happen to me all the time. The weirdest is when I am attacked (verbally) by old people. I was once on the 870 at the Capolinea and this guy just started harrassing me and I was not in the mood so I just started shouting abck in English. Everyone on the bus and even the the driver and the other ATAC guy at the hut cam to my rescue. I was shocked … happily so! I stil am shocked. The difference though was no one asked me out – they seemd to have just done the right thing at the time and went on with their lives! And I’ve some to love that about Italians – when it comes to crunch time (in my exerience) they are there – no strings attached.


    • I was once verbally attacked by a toothless Eastern European female vagabond. I still don’t know why but everyone came to my rescue then as well. I have to admit, that guy made my day. I was feeling fat and bloated that day. The fact that he asked me out after he saw me vomit and my face covered in snot, just made me laugh. Thanks for sharing your experience.


  2. I am sorry, and I really apologize as an italian and roman-born… I am convinced since a lot of time that we ARE closer to 3rd world than to europe (contrary to what the most of italians think).

    italy and rome are unfortunately very appealing for tourists but once you get to live here (as a lot of english/american do) you then realize that:

    average salaries are one of the lowest in europe;
    rents and rates are the highest in europe
    public offices, banks and post offices have the same level of service as in the average 3rd world country;
    in general you will have to face with the worst bureaucracy you could even imagine;
    no one respect any basic rule;
    no one would even try to make people respect the rules;
    public transportations are ridiculous compared to the avg european cities;
    being on time is really an option for trains and buses;
    some italians are rude, unpolite, noisy and so selfish, but unfortunately, that’s how the foreign people think we all are!

    sorry for the long comment but again, I apologize with you for metro B, for italian guys and everything else (did you notice how our beloved prime minister reflects all the worse of italy and italians?)


    • The funny thing is that even under the conditions you mentioned, we still love it here. The pros outnumber the cons. I was just so grateful to be helped in such a situation. When you don’t feel well, you fear the worst. Everyone was so helpful, that I trust Italians will come to the rescue if you are ever in need, even if they ask you out afterwards.
      Thanks for your comment.


  3. Well, do what I’m doing, and after many wonderful, frustrating, ghastly, blissful years in Rome, am throwing in the towel and GETTING OUT OF HERE. ……


    • Rome is definitely an adventure. For some a temporary one and for others a lifetime love affair, which like any relationship, has its ups and downs. After spending most of the summer in Switzerland, I returned missing Rome. I guess one needs to step away sometimes in order to come back with renewed energy. Thanks for your comment.


  4. Postscript for Stefano: look, it’s only Rome and downwards! There are some wonderful things about Italy and, more to the point, Italians. Don’t run yourselves down too much! Rome’s a difficult city to live in, incredibly frustrating, at times, yes, but as Glynis says there are many, many pros. Do they outweigh the cons? Not sure … even my teenage son, half Italian, is ready to move to more gentle waters.


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