It's cute though, right?
So the story is, that when I went to Italy I knew I wanted to get my sister-in-law a purse. The timing was convenient, since her birthday was about two weeks after I got home.
One of the first things our tour guide told us was to make sure and not buy purses from anyone who had them on the ground. Blanket or not, the ground was no good. On a table was ok, they were legitimate vendors, but the illegal ones apparently had them on the ground, ready to swoop them up and take off at a moment's notice. She also said that any buyers were subject to a $1,000 dollar (or euro, I can't remember which) fine AND - to add insult to injury - would have the purse confiscated.
No problem, we thought. We can live with those guidelines.
Our shopping got off to a slow start, so one of the first shopping days we went to an outdoor market. I didn't see anything that really grabbed me until right when we were leaving. On a table (thankfully) I found a cute bag that was mustard colored and looked like it was woven. It was cute, though you could tell it wasn't great quality. For the price though, 5 euros, I was pretty happy with it.
I wanted to get a purse for myself too, so I was going to try and buy two purses that I liked and would be happy with, in case I ended up with either one of them. I was going to let my sister-in-law pick.
Over the rest of the trip though, I didn't see any other purses that I particularly loved. (At least not ones that I could afford. I fell in love with a few in a shop in Venice. My friend Julie bought one that I absolutely loved. I'm glad that at least she got to have it, since I couldn't. See what a good friend I am.)
Anyway, it got down to the very last day, the very last couple of hours, stopping to look at purses everywhere we went. We were by the Pantheon and there it was, The Purse. The one I'd been looking for. The one I knew I was going to get for my sister-in-law. I went up to the guy and asked how much. He told me the price and I tried to decide in my head, converting euros to dollars, while also trying to remember exactly how many euros I still had, if I could afford it. It was the last day, after all and I was down to not much. It was definitely more than I had wanted to spend, especially for a knock off. I turned around, hoping he'd play the game.
As I walked away, he lowered the price a little. I turned and offered him less.
"Good quality." he assured me. "Very good price."
That wasn't the problem. It was the lack of funds at my disposal. After bargaining a little longer, we came to an agreement. I couldn't believe it! I had finally found what I hoped would be the perfect purse for my sister-in-law.
I walked around, happily clutching at my prize. We walked through the Pantheon, all the time I felt so happy and relieved that I had finally found what had eluded me for days.
When we walked back out, I was surprised that the purse sellers were no longer there. That should have been my first clue.
We walked back to Piazza Navonna and I was happy to find some women we had met and become friendly with on our tour. I was so excited to show them the purse. I eagerly got it out of the bag and was holding it up like a trophy to show them. They oohed and ahhed appropriately.
I couldn't figure out what the little Italian couple next to them started getting so agitated over. They started shushing me and making gestures. Finally one of the ladies from our tour said "I think you'd better put it away."
We then noticed the little "paddy wagon" that was parked in the square. Believe it or not, the back was full of confiscated purses!
I couldn't believe it! In my excitement of buying "the purse", I had forgotten our guide's warning of not buying one off of the ground. I didn't know what to do then. I was already carrying a purse and the one I had just bought was in a plastic bag. I tried to keep it hidden as well as I could, but I was definitely spooked. I walked around for the hour or so that we had left, looking over my shoulder. I swear there ended up being a policeman or two on every corner from then on. I forgot every once in a while to keep it hidden and would grab it by the handles and carry it like a purse. Luckily I had enough women around to remind me to keep in under my arm. I was actually glad to pay the money and hide out in a public restroom for a while.
Well, we did make it to the bus, where I breathed a sigh of relief.
I'll tell you what though, if that's what it feels like to be a criminal and have to constantly look over your shoulder I think my life of crime has come to an end. I do also feel sad for allegedly giving money to terrorists, so I guess I'm especially glad that they got Osama Bin Laden last month. (Not sure if the two situations are even remotely connected, but I'll take whatever means I can to make myself feel less guilty about the whole situation.)