My First Brush with the Law and other Small Victories
This morning was a beautiful one. Signs of Spring are everywhere — from daffodils, budding trees and blue skies to people lingering out-of-doors, admiring the sunshine, and sloughing off their winter jackets. Raised as I was on show tunes, I’m still humming a medley of “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning,” and “A Hundred Million Miracles.” I hate that Paul had to go home, but maybe it’s a good thing that I’m alone with my Broadway soundtrack, which never fails to annoy him.
There are several reasons for this euphoria: early this morning, one of our Benano neighbors told me to use tu (the informal “you”) instead of Lei (the formal “you”) when talking with any of our neighbors. This was a huge deal to me. She said they are all one big family and I am a member of that family. Cue Mary Martin, Julie Andrews, and the chorus!
Then I went to Castel Viscardo, the very small town about 2 miles from Benano — the go-to town for the ATM, gas, the closest restaurant, the pool we make available to guests, a few bars (Italian bars are more like cafes), and several small shops. And, as I now know too well, The Law (I Carbinieri). But I’ll get to that in a minute.
I stopped at the hardware store for clothespins and communicated my need despite having neither any idea of the word for clothespins nor my dictionary. Guess what! Saying, “after I wash my clothes, I dry them, outside, on a line…” substitutes for the actual Italian word — if one uses the appropriate charade gestures, of course. Once the purchase was complete, the sales clerk, who I had met before, told me she had seen me running in the mornings. She recommended a nice route that’s flatter than the routes I had been running. Dulcet strains of “Getting to Know You” crept into my head.
Next stop was the small grocery store, where I was remembered by Serena and Marta, the warm and welcoming clerks. We had a nice chat, and I discovered that they sell in their little store the fresh pasta made in the shop down in Orvieto that I had just managed to visit for the first time. Parking is hard to come by around the Orvieto pasta shop, so it took me years to get the nerve to get in there. And now I find out that their pasta is available right here in Castel Viscardo. And that Serena had seen me running in the morning. Who wouldn’t be humming “Happy Talk” on their way out?
Ready to celebrate my magnificent morning, I went to the bar for un caffè before returning home. And that’s when things got interesting. I was preparing to pay and leave when an officer of the carabinieri (sort of the national police – and, unlike the local police, these guys are authorized to carry guns) came in and started asking something about a car. I might mention here that I had noticed that my car was alone in front of the bar. In my defense, though, I want it noted that when I initially parked it, it was one of several. Anyway, the barista started asking the regulars about a car and finally I said maybe it was mine. She said no, it’s an Italian car. Oops! I’m driving an Italian car. And it turns out I had parked it on the wrong side of the street.
But I had an advocate. My barista friend explained to the officer (shall we call him Sheriff Taylor?) that I’m una straniera (a foreigner) and I didn’t know any better. I scurried out to move the car, dropping lots of mi dispiace‘s (I’m sorry’s) as I zipped by Sheriff Taylor. When I returned to pay my bill, my barista friend laughed at my concern and said, “it’s OK — he’s not a bad man.”
Just like Anna in “The King and I,” I whistled a happy tune all the way home.