Tuesday, January 4, 2011


I call before the holiday weekend to tell the gas people that our meter is down to 15. “Non c’e problema, signora. Plenty of time. We will come tomorrow.” The Xmas holiday comes and goes, and nobody shows. When we next look at the gas meter a few days before New Year’s, it reads ZERO! Uh-oh!

I am not great at being demanding in any language. I like to leave that to my husband. But in his Italian classes, he hasn’t yet gotten to the lesson that teaches how to be indignant—not that that would ever work in Italy, anyway. So unless our son is here, who knows just the right noises to make to get the natives to do what he wants, that job falls to me. Usually it works, since I manage to say things that are more comical than offensive;for example, I told the gas company “we are at ZERO, e zero non e buono!” Apparently that line was memorably funny, and they said they would send someone right away.

 When it started getting dark with no sign of any gas, I was unanimously elected to call back to complain. In all fairness, however, the weather had been dreadful. So when they said that their big truck had tried to come, but our terrible road was impassible, leaving the driver skidding around in the mud, with ZERO traction, it sounded like a better excuse than “the dog ate my homework.” By some miracle reminiscent of the Hanukah story, even with our meter at ZERO, we managed to hold out, and the nice gas man finally arrived with a smaller truck in time to save us from no heat, which would not have been a good way to start the new year. This is a "down" side to living where we do.

Nevertheless, when whoever-said-they-would-come-but-didn’t finally arrives with a big disarming smile, it’s hard not to want to hug them. Our wise son who has an Italian soul has often said that Italians will only do business with people they like, even if “costs” them a sale.

We are getting better and better at being huggable:”piano, piano.”

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