Keeping Your Cool on a Runaway Train

A few girls and I decided to travel to the historic town of Siena, Italy for a weekend. When I booked my ticket, I was fine with the fact that we had to transfer three times between the four separate trains it took to get us to Siena. However, I didn’t realize that we only had around five to fifteen minutes between departures, which is a considerably short amount of time to change trains, especially if you don’t speak the Italian language or ride the trains often.

We had an early start on Friday, yawning as we walked to catch our first train of the day at 5:57am. A couple of hours (and a couple of transfers) later, we were exhausted and finally cozied up against the train car window to nap as we were on the home stretch towards Siena. I couldn’t help but think to myself, “How could this go wrong?” We’d already handled two transfers successfully, so why would the last one be any different?

Well, I was wrong. Things definitely went wrong.

I woke up from my nap to see which train stop we were currently at, but the speakers that announced the station name were unintelligible and any informational signs were non-existent. One of the girls I was traveling with (who has the gift of always knowing her way around) had told the rest of us that the next stop was ours, so we all prepared to disembark. When the train finally stopped, my good friend Morgan was the first one off the train even though she had also been asleep two minutes earlier. The rest of us were making our way to the exit when I saw the doors close. I looked around for a button next to the doors to open them, but couldn’t find anything. The panic didn’t quite set in until we all felt the train begin inching away from Morgan, who was just watching us struggle from the train platform.

It felt like the world quickly went from slow-motion into hyper-speed in a matter of seconds. Since we still couldn’t figure out how to open the train car doors, all we could do was watch Morgan wave to us as we got farther and farther away. We figured we could just get off at the next stop assuming it’d be close, but the train switched gears into hyper-speed and the distance between us and our friend grew. We soon came to realize that Morgan had gotten off a stop too early, and our actual destination was the next one.

Surprisingly enough, we did manage to get Morgan back and make it to Siena with only an hour delay. Regardless, the reason why we were able to accomplish this and fix the situation was by keeping calm and focusing on finding solutions to our problem at hand. Sometimes things happen that weren’t intended, like accidentally leaving your friend on a practically abandoned train station platform in a quiet neighborhood called Fabro. Sometimes finding solutions to those unexpected obstacles becomes a memorable experience, like how my friend Gina communicated to a group of seven Italian taxi drivers through Google Translate in order to rescue our friend.

Even though our trip didn’t go exactly according to plan, we were still able to recover from our mistake by keeping calm and taking action. In the end, it made for a hilarious experience I will not soon forget.

All the best,

Alyssa Dominguez

A view of the Pubblico Palace in Piazza del Campo in Siena!