A recent visit to Venice, Italy got me thinking about the model train set I had as a kid, and how it taught me the meaning of scale.
For those who have never played with model trains, they come in two different scale sizes: N and HO. HO is the larger of the two, with a ratio of 1:87.1, while N gauge ranges from 1:148 to 1:160.
Because of this difference in scale, an HO caboose seriously dwarfs an N caboose when sitting side by side. Serious model train aficionados (i.e. adults) would never dream of mixing HO with N.
All’s fair in love, war and play, however, so friends and I often mixed scales while playing with our model trains and other toys. It made things more interesting.
Under these circumstances, Barbies could take on Amazonian proportions, terrorizing entire cities, with rampages that could only be ended by an even larger entity, such as a maniacal Teddy bear, or some other creature. Fun stuff!
I was reminded of all this as our cruise ship pulled out of the harbor in Venice, Italy. So many luxury boats there were clearly out of scale with that ancient Italian village. One yacht featured not just one, but two helicopter pads. I guess it is for those moments when one helicopter is not quite enough.
You know the feeling, right?
Despite my childhood fun, the violation of scale I witnessed in the Venetian harbor annoyed me. I didn’t like seeing all those HO -sized yachts snuggling up against my sweet little N-scale Italian village, the floating city I had dreamt of visiting since I first saw photos of it in National Geographic decades before.
Now that I had finally made it to Venice in person, I didn’t want to see it attacked by 50 foot tall Barbies from Hell. It already suffers enough from acqua alta and the steady onslaught of tourists. I simply wanted la citta serenissima, the city of serenity, to get some peace for once. Don’t you?