Next Stop: Sanity!
Positano, Italy, might be the most beautiful place on the planet. It’s certainly the prettiest place I’ve ever visited, and that’s saying something, given that I’ve been to Paris, Venice, Hawaii, Jamaica, Catalina Island, and Columbia, South Carolina.
Maybe I just have strong feelings for Positano because I almost didn’t live to see it.
I should explain that, accompanying my group was a guy named Rick Steves, the travel guru, in the form of his 8-pound guidebook. In the section on Positano, Rick encouraged us to take the bus from Sorrento to Positano, and he specifically said to get off at the second Positano stop.
Positano, you see, is built on the side of a mountain. It’s narrow streets wind back and forth down the side of that mountain to its gorgeous beach. And on the way down to the beach, Rick Steves said, Positano has more women’s designer clothing stores per square foot than any other place on earth. And the Positano sandalmakers create custom-made sandals while you wait. I had found my mothership.
After about thirty minutes, the bus stopped, and the driver yelled, “Positano!” and people started getting off the bus. Just to be sure we didn’t miss our stop, the SECOND STOP, someone in our group asked the driver. “No, no, this is first. You get off next stop,” he said.
We sat back down and gawked at the view from our bus seats. And ninety seconds after the first stop, the bus stopped again. We stood up and got off and watched as the bus pulled away. A woman who had gotten off with us said, “Where are you going? This is my house. If you want the bus stop, you have to walk down the road.”
Holy hairpin turn, Batman! We were on a narrow mountain road with a rock wall on one side and a sheer cliff on the other. The shoulder on each side of the road was a good 18 inches deep. We began walking single file, hugging the rock wall and cringing as cars whizzed by and the people in them pointed and laughed at the estupido Americanos.
We griped about the bus driver the whole rest of the afternoon. Why hadn’t he stopped us from getting off when he did the woman a favor and let her out at her house?
Then again, why hadn’t we thought to look for the bus stop sign and the crowd of folks waiting to board our bus? We got off at the wrong stop because of a rigid adherence to a guidebook. Rather than looking around at the circumstances and thinking for ourselves, we were committed to getting off at the second stop because that’s what Rick Steves said to do.
That was the last day I read the Rick Steves guidebook. I decided in Positano that I’m not going through life any longer with my nose so buried in a guidebook that I miss the view.