The “Stupid Steps Syndrome”

I do think going to the Vermeer exhibit was the perfect way to end my tour of Rome. What a once in a lifetime treat!

But after a VERY long evening of walking – in the rain – I am convinced I have a particular syndrome that can’t be helped because you are probably born with it – like blue eyes or flat feet.

Thinking back it seems it first came to light in France, although I didn’t know it at the time.

ImageAbout a dozen years ago, my son Bill and I went on a quick trip to Paris with my friend Bill and his daughter Jennifer, age 12 or so. Naturally we hit the highlights, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. But the other thing I wanted to see was the steps that lead up to the Sacre-Coeur. It is on the hill of Montmartre, the highest point in Paris.

The guys didn’t care about seeing them one way or the other and all Jennifer asked was if she could rent some rollerblades for the trek. Well, her dad had said yes the day before, but when we actually headed out, he went right past the skate shop and didn’t stop. Jenn’s lip started to pout.

We made it up the right hill but I got distracted by seeing the infamous Moulin Rouge in the distance. I wanted to walk that way. And we did, but it led to a great misunderstanding…

That was the opposite way of the Sacre-Coeur steps, but I didn’t know it. And somehow the guys thought I knew where I was going. Meanwhile, I thought THEY had a plan to get us back to the steps.

Five miles later we had seen nothing but concrete and Jenn was in tears. We stopped at a cafe for friend Bill to do some damage control. (He shoulda gotten her the rollerblades!) We were too tired to go any further and Jenn had a fit. “All this for some stupid steps!” she cried. And we all had to agree. And ever since, we have called the beautiful, scenic approach to the Sacre-Coeur, “the stupid steps.” And little did I know that would be the story of my future tourist forays on foot….


I walked much more of this city than I planned to!

This trip has been the perfect example. My first day in Rome I got turned around so many times – all while consulting the map – that it was downright embarrassing. Not to mention painful.

But one would think, after a week of wandering the same streets, that I would have a better handle on it.

I don’t. Making my way back from the museum on Sunday evening was a total disaster. All I had to do was go back through neighborhoods where I had already been, but it just didn’t work out that way. And the pain between my shoulder blades became intense. At one point I sat on a wet ledge and wanted to cry. It felt like someone had put a hot knife blade in my upper back and left it there. I dug in my purse for my emergency pain pills. These are not advil – they are the real thing and I don’t have many of them. But it was time to take one even though I had nothing to drink.

I popped one in my mouth and just sat there until I could swallow it. Then I consulted the map again, which is wet and tattered and starting to fall apart. Honestly, I had stopped after every couple blocks so I didn’t get so far off course, but I was still pretty much lost. Not totally – but pretty much. And it was dark. And raining.

ImageSo it was walk, walk, walk, check the map. Try to figure out where I was. Every time I did I was amazed that I was farther from my room than before. How can this be? I was on every side of this huge monument at one point or another, trying to use it as a landmark. (Note: holding the map in the right direction DOES help!)

And every once in a while I just had to find a spot where I could lean my head and shoulders backwards as far as possible to work some of the kinks out. I’m sure I looked quite strange attempting back bends over low railings, but the pain was killing me! At least my feet are still moving. And I do have my umbrella so the Africans are leaving me alone.


much scarier at night in the rain, alone…

Finally I arrive at the wall along the Tiber River. I recognize this wall. It looks the same all along the river clear back to my room. I check the street signs at the intersection I am at.

My heart sinks. Sure enough I have gone the wrong way again and I am along the river alright. But a good two miles on the OTHER side of my room. God help me, how am I going to get back?

In hindsight, I should have backtracked through the same busy tourist areas I had just walked through. But I knew that river wall would get me back and I struck off in that direction. However, it wasn’t long before I realized I was all alone. It wasn’t really late, but it was dark. And for all the traffic on the street, you couldn’t see me walking along that wall at all.

ImageOn and on I walked. It seemed like forever. I shuddered whenever I passed a few young men who were hanging out along the riverside. I would walk with determination, swinging my pointy umbrella, and try to look nonchalant. (I’m sure THAT looked convincing!) Then I would turn to make sure I wasn’t being followed.

Geez, it was a long way back. And I was so soaked and exhausted when I got near my room that I couldn’t even eat. Once through my hotel door I went straight to the kitchen and made a pot of cammomile tea with sugar! I retreated to my room to drink it down nice and hot.

ImageMy hair was plastered to my head and my socks were molded to my feet but I was able to change into dry clothes and enjoy the tea. Then it was lights out – at 8:30 pm – with a grateful prayer to have made it back safe and sound.

The next morning I showed Piotr where all I had been. “You must have walked 10 kilometers!” he exclaimed. “Well done!” ummmm… yeahhhh….

Believe me, “Stupid Steps Syndrome” is a real disorder. And now that I know I have it for sure, I’m not going to be so trusting in the future. It’s worth it to me to get a companion or take a taxi to avoid the pain and danger of being lost in a large strange city at night in the rain.

In fact, SSS could be contagious – or even hereditary. My son Brad appears to have it. We’ve always made fun of him for getting lost so easily (which I much better appreciate now.) And my other son Bill says that Brad has it so bad that if he even gets in your car with you – as a passenger – you’ll probably get lost, too!

So if you are ever with me when I’m traveling, never believe a word I say about which direction to go. I mean well – I just can’t be trusted. And it isn’t my fault…

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Paula!
    Nov 06, 2012 @ 09:41:40

    Oh Starr! You are too funny. SSS!! I think I would have been scared silly. But you did have the pointy umbrella as a weapon. Isn’t it good to have a proper diagnosos so you can now feel better about your excursion! Not your fault!


  2. thesketchylife
    Nov 06, 2012 @ 10:20:24

    Absolutely not my fault! And if you had been here, we would have locked arms and chanted, “lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” from the wizard of oz! We would have looked quite as daffy as we really are and been in no danger!


  3. bdauby
    Nov 07, 2012 @ 21:54:08

    I am going to Toronto next week. Is the fastest way through Lexington or Louisville? I can never remember.


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