April 6, 2018

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Trying to find the Hasler Hotel in Rome: a comedy skit

John F. FinkYou’ll enjoy this story of one of my visits to Rome. The episode would have made a good comedy skit. But first, some background.

After the World Congress of the Catholic Press in Vienna in 1977, I rented a car and drove with my wife Marie to Rome, stopping at various places on the way. One of those places was Verona, Italy. It was dark when we got there and this, of course, was well before smart phones or GPS in cars. We had maps.

I frequently had to stop the car, get out and go to the corner to see where we were. Then we would find that intersection on a map. But we eventually got to the Due Torre (Two Towers).

When we told the desk clerk at the hotel how much trouble we had finding the hotel, he gave us some advice: “When you’re in a strange city and don’t know how to get somewhere, find a taxi and tell the driver to drive to the place you want to go. You follow the taxi in your car and pay the cab driver a regular taxi fare.”

In Rome, we had reservations at the Hasler Hotel at the top of the Spanish Steps, but I didn’t know how to get to that level. We were driving down the Via del Corso and stopped at a traffic signal when a taxi was dropping off its passengers. Marie said, “I’m going to do what that hotel clerk said,” and jumped out of the car.

She went up to the taxi, but instead of telling him to drive to the Hasler Hotel and I would follow, she got into the front seat of the taxi. “Hasler Hotel,” she said. “My husband will follow in that car behind us.”

The taxi driver apparently got the idea that Marie was going to meet someone at the Hasler Hotel and her husband was following her. So he thought Marie wanted him to lose me. The first thing he did was make a U-turn. I made a U-turn, too. We flew down the Via del Corso until he suddenly made another U-turn. This time, I was cut off by traffic and by the time I got turned around I had no idea where the taxi was.

Marie, in the meantime, was trying to explain things to the taxi driver, even grabbing his leg to try to keep him from driving so fast. The driver thought he really had a live one! But he did turn around again, and at one point we passed each other going in opposite directions. We waved as we passed.

Eventually, I saw the taxi drive through the Piazza del Popolo and up a hill I hadn’t noticed before. I went up the hill, too, and finally got to the hotel.

Marie, of course, was already there. She went in the hotel and told the concierge that she was checking in, that her husband would be along soon, and would he please pay the taxi driver? He did.

I soon arrived, and found a very perplexed taxi driver. †

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