I’ve mentioned my dislike of arguing with older Italian men for fear that I’ll find a dead horse’s head on my pillow the following morning and with Italy only 45 minutes away, it’s not as if I can feel safe by having thousands of miles between myself and any Italians following an argument I may have had. And don’t think that I’m an argumentative so and so, starting fights with every Italian I meet, it’s just that the older Italian guys seem so, well, sinister I suppose.
A couple of years ago we were invited to our Italian builder’s birthday lunch and sitting amongst his family’s male members and friends was like being at a mafia dinner. They all wore dark glasses and had ‘Del Boy’ type medallions around their necks. And they all seemed to be whispering to each other.
And then a couple of weeks ago when I took my relatives to San Remo for the day and I went back to the restaurant where I had reserved a specific table only to find a group of ‘Goodfellas’ sitting at it, did I argue? No siree – I went and sat somewhere else. I like my life thank you.
Now I’m sure this illogical fear of ‘the older Italian’ male stems from an experience J and I had when we drove through Italy en-route to somewhere else – it might have been Venice or a ski resort, but we stopped at a hotel just off the motorway.
The place was clearly empty as there were no other cars in the vast underground car park and we were the only family eating in the restaurant.
The next morning I paid the bill, loaded cases and the family into the car and without thinking, slammed it into reverse and went straight into a car parked directly behind me. I don’t know why I didn’t spot it because I’d actually opened the Honda’s boot to load the cases in but I suspect it was because the car park was deserted. Anyway, nobody was about and I couldn’t see any damage to the other car (a Saab) so I restarted the Honda and drove off slowly. I looked in the mirror and the Saab was still behind me. I drove on a bit further (still in the car park) and the Saab was following me. I got out of the car and had a closer look and my tow bar had gone under the Saab’s front suspension and was stuck.
Now to cut a very long story short, I tried everything to free the cars. I got the whole family to stand on the Honda’s back bumper but that didn’t work. I tried to jack up the front of the Saab but that didn’t work – nothing worked.
Eventually, the owner of the Saab, an Italian guy with a long trench coat and dark glasses (in an underground car park !) appeared. I explained the situation to him and suggested various things which I thought would work, one of which was for my family to stand inside his boot, thereby raising the front of his car and hopefully releasing it. ‘You will not go near my trunk’, he said. ‘But it makes sense’, J suggested. ‘You will not go near my boot’, he repeated, without taking his glasses off.
It was then that I lost it a bit and said, ‘why the **** when there’s two hundred spaces in this hotel car park, you park directly behind me?’ He came very close to my face and said in remarkably good English ”don’t even go there – leave it – just get the cars separated.”
In the end with a combination of jacks from a nearby garage and half the family jumping up and down on his rear bumper and the other half jumping up and down on mine, we finally separated the cars. His front grill was by now a bit mashed up and I offered to exchange details. He gave me one last evil look and said, ‘no need – I’m late for a meeting.’
As J and I drove off, about two hours later than we anticipated, we speculated about what might have been in his boot. Was it a body? Was it bits of a body? Was it a chainsaw covered in blood? Was it a stash of guns?
And that’s why I don’t argue with Italian men, especially when they’re wearing dark glasses on a cloudy day.