I know. Promises, promises. Where are these oft discussed anecdotes? I've been back from my travels for nearly a month now. You probably don't even remember I was gone, but I was. And amusing things happened while I was elsewhere. Really. The thing is that I'm terribly lazy. I don't mean to be, but there it is.
Amusing Anecdote #1
One day, Marja and I got up in the morning and headed off to the tourist office. True, we had nothing particularly urgent to do there, but the fact of an actual plan involving a specific destination made us feel rather busy and important. I promised Marja that we would find her some coffee on the way, which seemed a certainty except that the route to the tourist office seemed strangely devoid of cafes. When we finally passed a tabacco shop/bar there was no time to waste. There was a bit of a caffeine emergency in the works.
It was an ideal location, in fact, because although I don't drink coffee, I did need stamps. I left Marja at the bar and I headed to the back where, by speaking Close-Enough Italian, I was able to purchase some francoboli for my carte postale to the Stati Uniti. When I came back, Marja was standing at the bar* drinking her cappuccino.
* NOTE: My Italian teacher particularly stressed the important fact that in Italy you may either drink your coffee standing at the bar, or you may drink it while seated at a table. BUT BE WARNED: you will pay a great deal more for sitting at the table. This was imparted with the gravity of a true insider tip. Clearly no self-respecting local would pay the exorbitant "table sitting" surcharge. However, being tourists with little or nothing to do other than sit at a cafe table, we were generally willing to pay up the extra Euros. But obviously, on a morning where we had such big plans, there was no time for that sort of thing.
"Hey." I said. "Look at you. Standing at the bar. How'd it go?"
"Well," she said, "it went pretty well up until he asked me if I wanted to drink it here or at a table. At least I think that's what he said. I just smiled and shook my head a lot."
While standing there, I decided I would get a pastry. Fortunately, I knew how to say "I would like a pastry," so that was pretty easy. The man got it for me and I was prepared for him to tell me that it was 70 cents, because, well, that's how much it was. Whatever he said though, was something entirely different. I didn't really concentrate on what it was, I just thought "Ah ha! This is the part where he asks me where I want to eat this. Luckily, Marja forewarned me." Immediately, the word for "here" evaporated from my brain, so I just kept saying it in English. "Here," I say. "Here. Um...Here." I began pointing elaborately from above my head to indicate the very place I was standing. "Here. Right here." I got the giggles. I looked at Marja helplessly. This seemed to go on for ten minutes.
Finally, the bewildered man furrowed his brow and says "A Lucca?" In Lucca? Well, yes. I would like to eat it in Lucca, but far more specifically, I would like to eat it right here, standing at your bar, not even taking one step toward your very expensive tables. I was puzzled. He was puzzled. He turned to his son for aid. The son slowly, but very clearly translated his father's original question. "Where are you from?"
Oh. So I've been insisting for ten minutes that I'm not only from Lucca (despite the fact that I don't speak Italian), but that apparently I was born right here on your bar? Here in your tabbacco shop? Yeah. Well, I was just kidding.
Here's your 70 cents.