February of 2005, bitterest cold of Budapest, 4 baby mathematicians decided to be utterly reckless, ditch the first days of class and skip town to Venice for carnevale. “When will we have this opportunity again in our lives?” Silence. Contemplation. Determination. We got our plane tickets less than about 26 hours before departure. First order of business was, of course, to get masks!
In the first piazza of our wanderings was a mysterious wooden-walled off area right in the center. A little rectangle in one side glowed its welcome – ah, an entrance. Around the inner perimeter were booths set up by all the local suppliers of carnevale finery: robes, masks, whole costumes. I saw my mask almost immediately. It was enchanting and very unusual. But it was 63 euros. I forced myself to leave and try to find a different one. I must’ve dragged my poor friends to at least 20 other shops, but nothing came close. So I went back (after 2 days and 3 attempts to find the place), and it was still there. I chatted with the artist at the stall “I’m really too poor for this, but I have to have it. It’s gorgeous,” and gave him my credit card. He took it in back and made me a receipt, but when he handed me my mask and credit card back, he said, “Just promise me you’ll take care of it.” (How strange). “Of course.” Of course i would.
He never charged my credit card.