It was now December 1986 and the train had dropped us in Venice so we could catch a ferry to Athens. When we were buying the one way passage we were faced with the box “Married or Single”. It seems that in Italy were the Catholic church had a lot of influence, single people of the opposite sex were not allowed to stay in the same room at youth hostels and on things like ferries. Geez, I really was not wanting to get married that afternoon so reality of it was that the only choice we had was to lie. It was totally a economic decision to lie as we could not afford 2 staterooms on the ferry.
As we were boarding the ferry I was feeling a pang of guilt for my small lie. But it was too late we were approaching the threshold. The Italian man at the door said “passport” so I handed it over then he pushed us ahead. Oh shit, he has our passports and didn’t give them back. When I protested he just dismissed me with a wave of the hand. Everyone else was handing them over as well so I knew we were not singled out. I also knew I did not check the married box on my passport application. We were done for!
As we made our way in to the belly of the boat to where only the lowest class of people could be found, I was still having a panic about the passports. Sean was all “its okay, don’t worry” But I was worried after all my mother’s last words to me were “What ever you do, don’t lose your passport!”
So as we were settling in to our honeymoon suite an announcement came over the PA: “Susan Philippson and Sean Madill report to the main office”. Now it sorta sounded like our names but I was pretending it was just my imagination. Until the knock at the door. Not a gentle knock, but the kind that makes you not want to open the door. But I did and the angry man said ” PASSPORTS”.
What do you mean Passports? You have our passports! Now we had been in Italy for about 72 hours, so my Italian consisted of adding Os to french words. But this strategy was no longer working. The angry little man hauled me up to a office and yelled at me in Italian. Standing in front of the tiny pursers office I could see that the desk had 100s of passports on the counter. There was every possible nationality imaginable. Oh my, we are in trouble! Suddenly the 2 staterooms issue seemed like a much better problem.
There have been moments in my life that I have thought going POSTAL would solve the situation, but this was not one of them. With a deep breath I managed to communicate with one of the men that had a bit of English. I sat down and explained my method of solving this situation we found ourselves in and he actually listened. The two of us sorted the passports into countries after opening them and making sure there was just one. Every so often I would look up from my station and see Sean chatting with the men on the other side of the glass. I couldn’t tell if he was adding Os to his french words but they seem to be all getting on. Then I had this flash of the situation we were in. Oh my gawd, would we be sent to some Turkish prison to live out the scenes in Midnight Express because we tried to enter a country illegally?! So much for frolicking naked on the beach on Crete! After what seemed to be hours we finally found both passports. After lots of hugging we were invited to have dinner with the crew. It was that moment I went from a traveler with a lot of sunshine in her head to a seasoned veteran.
Our meal with the crew introduced us to pork on a stick. It was seasoned with Rosemary and garlic served with roasted potatoes and lemon. Something we both loved. It was all followed by what tasted like the sap of a pine tree. This would be the last good meal we would have for a long time so it was a damn good thing we enjoyed it.