Fighting To Be A Gladiator

On our last day in Rome we planned the excursion to The Coliseum/Colosseum. We had a decent evening and planned to be well rested for the journey. I however was in a million different places mind wise. I was still negotiating my trip home. I was offering advice to a friend looking to travel to where we were. I was also horribly managing my money. I seriously kept re-counting what I had and tallying expected costs. I was coming up very short and then I'd locked up my own card by buying train tickets. I was supposed to receive money from a friend and my mother but we could never connect. Earlier in the week iMessage was down. Then when I expressed the need it was after business hours in the states. My friend would agree to send money to match my mothers for my train ticket but wound up getting underpaid. It was a real disaster. I had about 20 Euros on hand, a little over $28 available in the bank and so many expenses ahead. I didn't know what to expect at The Colosseum, the hotel would be charging us city taxes in the morning, then there was Florence and still had to make it to home. I was in turmoil.

That morning I woke up I thought it best to find an alliance bank in the city. I needed to be able to at least get 20 Euros out of my account. However, if I didn't find one that didn't charge fees I'd be looking at wiping out everything. Some ATM's hit me for a basic $5 USD fee but others were getting me for 10 and 20 percent. It had been fairly easy to find alliance banking in Spain but looking around Rome frightened me. I'd already gone with her to the ATM there and it was very scary. Most of the banks I'd witnessed in Rome were old and janky looking. There were no familiar names, no private personal banking areas - just dark ATM's in tiny alleys or at a corner with like three crossroads. In looking online I'd found one not too far away by the four fountains. Since it was broad daylight I told her I'd go by myself and should be back within an hour. Of course, she was not impressed with my "confession" assuming I would walk slow and never make it back in time for us to go. I'd taken a walk that way before, twice really so I was more confident than she thought.

When I left the hotel I took the short cuts I'd grown accustomed to. I had a screen shot of directions to the bank and expected the walk to take no more than twenty minutes to and fifteen minutes back. I knew I would be entering the busy plaza, crossing to the hilly street towards the fountains and almost back to the shops we entered on our first day out. The bank or its ATM was supposed to be somewhere off that same road before the stores ahead. I just had to keep looking for it. I didn't anticipate just how hot it would be so early in the morning. The sun was blaring down on Barberini Plaza. Then to go up that gigantic San Francisco worthy hill with traffic coming out of every hidden driveway was exhausting. I kept making stops to let a car or bike through. Sometimes I had to rest. I'd also take refuge inside the alleys and building lobbies. Alleys offered shade. Lobbies offered feint breezes from indoor air conditioning. When I got to the fountains I was near death. I was covered in sweat and about five minutes from heatstroke. I didn't have a water bottle or anything to wipe my brow. I simply put my face in the fountains basin. I washed my face and arms and I didn't care much for onlookers. For those new to Rome they ogled at me just as we did at those who did it four days before. To align I started taking pictures as if everything was acceptable. That also allowed me to keep calm and carry on.

When I kept straight all I saw were banks. I saw tons of them. I saw banks that had recently had a name change. Banks that were obviously closed. Banks with no visible ATM's or personal financing. These were all corporate business banking buildings not teller windowed, money dispensing banks. There was also a lot of commotion around. One area I thought the bank might have been was roped off. There was also an armed guard in a booth making sure people didn't enter. There were helicopters flying low. It was as if some dignitary was flying in. So not only was I looking for a bank that didn't exist but I was in the middle of some democratic affair. I was trying doors and acting erratically covered in fountain water and in shorts. I was also parched and dying with absolutely no damn money. After a while of walking back and forth between the mayhem and the dead end street ahead I opted to cross the barricades. Something told me that ATM had to be where I wasn't allowed. Of course, people looked at me as though I was carrying a bomb but I just tried to look lost. I carried my phone in my hand, I zipped up my purse and I just kept looking at buildings. I could see a government bank but one needed credentials to enter and there was a guard there too. I could see people gathering at the top end of the barricaded street but I didn't know what for. These barricades were pretty official like the ones that have in Times Square. There was also Italian caution tape so me entering was not easy. I basically played limbo then hurdles to just walk on the sidewalk. 

I strongly believe I walked that street about three times. I expected for someone to ask what I was doing or help me but no one did. I was either stared at by all the bystanders or completely ignored by the guards. I even settled on playing limbo and hurdles at the other end to walk a complete block around looking for this ATM. When I did this I finally just surrendered to the guard booth before playing cats cradle with my body. I remember yelling for this woman to look up and saying "Banca!?". She then exited the booth and pointed to where all the people were. I'd passed those fucking people about eight times and never noticed they were all using the damn ATM. It was on this blocked off street at the very end on the side of a building that was located on another street entirely. It looked like the whole area was some sort of military compound and I was using a military banking ATM. It was also a very sketch machine and location but I was surrounded by off duty soldiers. I didn't expect to get robbed or bothered. I was more expecting for the damn thing to be out of 20s and force me to get an odd amount that I didn't have. Thankfully I was able to get my 20 Euros and the guard gave me a wave as I did the limbo and hurdles once more. I was so happy to have gone it alone, gotten a little sidetracked but not given up. I had my 20 Euros, my dignity and I was sort of pumped for the walk back down. 

Now I was pummeled with heat facing the East. I was going back down the hill with wobbly legs. I had no choice to take from the fountain again. I had no choice to stop in alleys and lobbies. When I approached the hotel I'd been gone over an hour and thirty minutes! She was sitting in our room, at the desk completely dressed and obviously pissed off. My clothes were soaked, my insoles toast and I needed to take a shower. I apologized profusely and said all I needed was five minutes. The cruelest part is I had already done this two hours ago. Now I was just wasting time and getting on her nerves. I also had no more clothes so I expected to wear damp clothes on a clean body. Breakfast was over and we were out of water so the shower was also another form of fountain. Once out I'd explained how I'd entered a war zone and become a terrorist of sorts just to use a military ATM. She really could care less about my need to save a buck and just wanted to leave. The insult to injury was checking my bank account just to see I'd been charged $6 anyways. So I'd went to war all for one reason and it turned out to be for nothing. I could have went to a sketch ATM at the strip club next door and incurred the same fee. We could have been at The Colosseum an hour ago. 

For now there is no Bank of America alliance banking within touristy, central Rome. The reality is all banks there have undergone changes of hand so some display old names but have been acquired by someone new. So when looking for a bank that is in the alliance you may see that bank but they are owned by someone who does not support it. Now if I would have waited until we trekked over to The Colosseum I might have found an alternative. The problem was she would have wanted to go to the ruins first and been a complete pain. I wouldn't of had the money to pay for transportation or admission either. I had no choice but to go but I had no idea it would be such a fight. 

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