The Italian hornet and my sweaty ham

This is a story colloquially referred to by my partner and I as the ‘wasp-ham story,’ and you’re about to find out why. First, a little background to really set the scene.

When I was about 10, I was on a trip with my older brother, 14 years older, to be precise. To be even more precise, he’s actually my half-brother, but I find it always sounds rather cold and impersonal when I put it that way. As if, you know, he’s only half my brother!

I’d prefer to think of him as a whole brother and not split down the middle, thank you very much. But anyhow, I digress.

My much older (mostly whole) brother and I were on a trip to Europe, where his father and step-mother live. There’s the whole half thing again; my family is complicated.

My brother’s father is a geology professor, and apparently being a geology professor in Europe means you can afford to have an apartment in Zurich and a chalet in the Swiss Alps, both of which I visited whilst on this trip.

Meanwhile, back in the States, my mother is struggling to find one apartment. I guess I forgot to mention, that’s part of why I’m on this trip in the first place: giving my mom some time to figure out our lives while I’m having a fun European excursion enabled by her well-to-do ex-husband.

You might be wondering, could this story get any weirder or more convoluted? And the answer is, yes, it can. We haven’t even got to the part with the wasp and the ham on the Italian hotel balcony yet!

So, getting on to that part, the four of us (my brother, his father and his step-mother) were taking a bit of a road trip around their corner of Europe; we went to Germany, Austria, and even the tiniest country in the world, Liechtenstein, which was so tiny that I actually don’t even remember anything about it, I just know we went there.

Our last stop, however, was Lake Como, in Italy. It was gorgeous, and I was having a great time. One morning, we were all sitting on the balcony of the hotel we were staying at and eating breakfast. The sun was shining, the lake was rippling and crawling with leisure boats, and my three companions all had their noses buried in newspapers.

Nobody was really paying attention to me. I guess they were all tired, probably hadn’t had enough coffee yet. So, I was just sitting there, eating some ham. Just ham, or at least, the ham is all I remember. Just a slice of ham, for some reason.

It was good ham.

Apparently, a certain Italian wasp thought so too.

I never liked flying, buzzing insects as a kid, especially not the stinging kind, even though I had never actually been stung before. When I was really little, though, I was even scared of flies. Like screaming, crying, freaking out, sort of scared.

I wasn’t that scared anymore, but I was still fairly disconcerted when this wasp began to buzz around me and was clearly taking an interest in my ham.

Soon, it actually landed on my ham!

That simply couldn’t be borne, so I started trying to shoo it away.

A piece of advice: if a wasp ever lands on your ham, in Italy or anywhere else, don’t shoo them away, and just put down the ham.

As I tried, quietly but frantically, to shoo the wasp off my ham, my finger landed directly on its stinger.


You might have thought I would have said something like that, right? But I didn’t. I jumped up in surprise, and still no one else at the table noticed anything was wrong.

The wasp was still there, however, and still after my ham.

At this point, you might think that I would just put down the ham, right? But I didn’t.

I ran.

I ran into the hotel breakfast room, but that wasp was still after my ham.

As you could probably guess by now, I didn’t do anything smart like put down the ham, and then run to my brother and say ‘ow, I got stung by a wasp who was after my ham!’

Instead, I kept running.

Through the hotel breakfast room, into the lobby, still clutching my (now quite sweaty) piece of ham.

Finally, I stopped, cowering in fear in a stairwell with my stung finger and sweaty ham.

Thankfully, the wasp seemed to have given up the chase. By this time, my brother and his family had finally noticed that I was gone, and had come running after me, clueless as to why I had run off, through the breakfast room and the lobby and into the stairwell.

Questions were asked of me, as you can imagine.

“Why didn’t you say something?”

“Why did you keep running?”

“Why didn’t you put down the ham?”

I really didn’t have any satisfactory answers for them.

I just allowed my stung finger to be iced, and munched, tearfully, on my hard-won piece of ham. 

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