It’s a Globalized, Barnum & Bailey World… And I Want OFF !!!

| January 19, 2011 | Comments (1)
Much as I love the place, I could never live in Italy.  It’s the elevators.  First, is their  impossibly small size.  Sandwiched-in like sardines with  four other  passengers, all gesturing as Italians are wont to do, is not something I am prepared to face on a daily basis as I descend from my flat to the local coffee bar;  or even more dreadful to contemplate  is negotiating the crowded contraptions with bags of groceries, emerging with squashed zuccinis and bruised elbows, suffering those knowing Roman  glances that say “You can always tell a foreigner;  they get so nervous in our beloved elevators…..”

Even if I eventually got used to the proxmity of hot pasta breath and prickly fake fox fur coats, the WAY these elevators function could risk a broken nose or worse. Recently on a visit to the Eternal  City, I entered a lift; there was already one passenger there before me. When the door closed I reached to push “4” and found my hand being slapped away from the button by a man who snarled, “What are you doing ?? !! I’m going to “2.”  Speechless, I watched as he punched his floor and almost did the same to my face.

Later my host told me that, of course,  I was wrong and the irate passenger was right. In Italy elevators are not programmed to stop by floor sequence; the lift will go FIRST to the floor that has been selected first. So, hit “9” and you will bypass “3” which may  also have been selected, but afterwards.  Elevator-riding in Italy is a matter of serious negotiation. Imagine ! In the land of Leonardo who had already drawn up blue-prints for a helicopter in the 15th century,  elevators are still stone-age.

And while I’m at it, Italy, there’s another thing you’ve got to change. Your buffet lunch rules ! The same day I almost got pummeled in the elevator for wrong-minded American lack of etiquette, I was invited to lunch at a very tony restaurant that featured  a buffet. It looked scrumptious ….beyond my wildest food fantasies. 

My brand of buffet engineering dictates that I make two trips to the table. I select a few items as my appetizer, tastefully arranging on my plate  aspargus spears, a slice of tomato and a wedge of mozzarella, watered by a spritz of olive oil. Returning  to my table, I polish off the “primo” and then make a second trip to the board for my main course.

NO WAY ! Not in Italy ! As I weaved through tables crowded with fellow diners, balancing the plate with my second helping, my entree, I heard a groundswell of muttering which sounded like  “maiale.” Seated, I asked my companion why everybody was talking about “maiale” – pork. Was there a dish on the table I had missed ?

No, he said, everybody is saying you are a PIG for going back to the buffet table a second time. It just isn’t done in Italy !  I will never bring you here again !

Oh, Olive Garden, where were you when I needed you most !

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  1. Bob Jones says:

    It is truly amazing just how tiny some European elevators can be. I remember several in Paris that could only accommodate one person at a time — no doubt what gave rise to the expression “renvoyer l’ascenceur” (to return the favor). Why would “returning the elevator” be a favor? Well, because of the limitation of the old-fashioned elevator that had no memory. If two residents, Pierre and Jean, arrived at the elevator door at the same time with their groceries, and the elevator was so tiny that only one resident could fit inside, then Pierre, perhaps younger, had to yield to Jean. As Jean loaded the elevator with his groceries, he promised Pierre to send the elevator back to him, i.e., push the button the moment the elevator reached his floor. That way, no one else, on intervening floors, would have time to push the button first and could not thus use the elevator until Pierre had his turn. –BJ

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