Pure Italy

This post has no pictures, but I'm hoping to create the scene with words.

On our earlier trips to Viterbo, crazy things happened to us because of cultural differences. There was the time I let the kids stay in the car while it went through the car wash. I got out for some reason. An old lady was quite alarmed at the bambini still in the car.This is not something you do here, or at least not at this type of car wash (a small machine, just a little bigger than the car with a sort of conveyor belt that moves the car through). The kids emerged unscathed.

Another time (and this is not a cultural thing, actually), the toll booth ate my card and then locked us in behind AND in front. Luckily, there's a little PA system by which I communicated and got help. They took the entire machine apart, found, and returned my card.

An ATM also ate my card once, and the following day, when the bank was open, I spoke to a teller, who opened a drawer, asked if this was my card (holding out my card), and told me he would have to mail it to my bank in the States. Ah, so close and yet, so far.  That was Bank of America, by the way, which charges both ways—they get a fee for every transaction, and they do not waive or absorb the vendors' fees. I came home that year with over $300 in transaction fees. Bank of America is not an international-friendly bank to work with. TDAmeritrade and Fidelity each have fee-free debit card accounts. Learned this the hard way.

Here's last week's scenario. I went to the big supermarket on a Monday late afternoon. Mistake #1. Apparently, everyone depletes all their food on Sunday and replenishes on Monday.  HUGE lines. And people are never in a hurry, and, as I've mentioned, children are the priority. So add an extra 20 minutes standing behind people stopped with a sideways carriage blocking the whole aisle. Or behind a person letting their toddler bag, identify, weigh and put the sticker on their produce purchases.

When I finally got the few things I needed, I discovered the lines were all down the aisles from the registers... you couldn't even see where they ended. There is no line for people with just a few items. So I maneuvered my way to the end of a line, halfway down the jelly aisle, then got busy on my phone to try and pass the time. A young woman with a toddler asked me if this was the line. She got in behind me. After about 15 minutes, my place in the line came to the clearing between the aisles and the registers. Imagine my surprise to see a line of people standing in MY line, forking off down the other aisle. I was incredulous and tried, off and on, to make eye contact, but chickened out. Then an older woman came up to the line and positioned herself in front of us. Then a pregnant woman came in from the other side, right up at the front of the line. The old woman told everyone to let her in. They are so kind to their pregnant people, I thought, but really? She was taking advantage. Then the woman behind me with the toddler cut in from of me!

A couple of people up was a young man with a Washington sweatshirt on. I thought he might be American and wondered what he was thinking about all of this. He actually left the line at one point (suicide!) because, I later learned, he had forgotten to weigh his produce, so he ended up way behind me, and then eventually, immediately behind me because of all the people cutting up ahead. I finally made eye contact with him when he was a few people back, and said, "Are you American?" He said he was. He's a Brian Williams look-alike, by the way. I said "Is this @#%&*!!@#$-ing unbelievable?????" You can swear like a truck driver in public if you need to because they don't hear it the same way we do. As for the American kid, he understood, but screw it, I had to blow off steam. He was losing his mind, too.

When yet another woman with a toddler came from the other side of the store to get in front, I moved to block her and the old lady yelled to me, "Signora!!!" And in Italian—Let the lady in with the bambino!!!  I said, "Gli MIEI bambini sono a la MIA CASA addesso, APSETA per ME e questo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"  Probably totally unrecognizeable gibberish, but what I was saying was MY kids are home waiting for me and this food! Doesn't that matter? My Brian Williams friend was bug-eyed with shock over what was happening to us.

Then, the cultural thing happened. I looked up, and there, above me, was a sign indicating pregnant women, women with babies and handicapped or old people get priority and should be granted access to the head of the line... So, there you have it. Ryan (my friend) and I had mistakenly gotten into the line that draws ALL mothers with born or unborn children to this line. We are lucky we EVER got out of there. Over an hour in this God-forsaken line. I drove him home. It was the least I could do considering talking to him, distracting myself as best I could, saved my life, and probably the lives of several others, too.