Yelling: the universal language

It’s so unpleasant, even in beautiful Italian.

There’s a greasy little storefront down below our apartment, in between an antique store and a cafe. It’s some kind of little gambling shop, pull-tabs I think. Despite the fact that we live in a lovely area of town, here it is. But the real problem is the two old men who sit outside the store. One or both spend the day sitting in a chair on the sidewalk. Smoking.

Then there’s our apartment. Happy, clean and five stories up. I used to begin each day by feeding Phoebe then putting her in her bouncy chair as I watered the flowers on the balcony. But I made a mistake and over-watered a couple of times early in the summer, and apparently the water dripped down to the sidewalk below. That’s when the buzzing started, furious and unrelenting buzzing on our intercom. Plus screaming that I could hear all the way up on my balcony. “Senora! Senora! Aqua!” I politely answered the intercom, “Pronto?” Too much Italian was coming at me, too fast. But I got the gist and apologized. “Dispiace. E finito.” (I’m sorry, it’s done.) For the next month whenever a single drop hit the pavement, buzz, buzz, buzzzzzzz!

I understand that it’s frustrating sit in a chair and have water drip on your shoulder. But I truly don’t understand this response. Rather than screaming at a stranger, I’d move my chair. Anyway, it doesn’t matter because I changed the watering schedule to early mornings or late evenings–which isn’t easy with a newborn baby, and would be nicer to water my plants on my terrace when it’s convenient for me–just to make an effort.

I mention this today, out of the blue, because that’s exactly what happened this week. Temperatures have dropped in Rome and I haven’t watered all week. But suddenly on Wednesday afternoon, the dreaded buzzing began. It’s difficult to articulate the rage transmitted by buzzing but you’ll have to take my word for it. I was already shaking when I picked up the receiver, then “Senora! Aqua…” tumbled out.  But this time, there WAS no water. Totally confused about why I was getting yelled at again, I could only say, “Oggi? Ma non aqua oggi” (Today? But no water today.) His point was that water dripped on two of his shirts/water dripped every day. I said I was sorry and that I only watered in the morning and night now but it didn’t matter. The fiery response was barked at me too fast for my basic Italian skills to comprehend, “Dispiace, ma non capisco.” (I’m sorry but I don’t understand.) But I did get enough of his response to know he was saying the equivalent of don’t live in Italy if you don’t speak Italian. Bleck.

Unfortunately, Phoebe and I had an appointment for an oil change at Mercedes so we had to walk downstairs. As I did, I saw the guy and he went back at it. Same thing, two shirts, water every day. Complete with threats to call the police. Twice. I did my best to convey an apology, for an injustice committed two months ago, but he wasn’t letting up. Liquor on his breath, it seemed that he just wanted a nice rant. Fifteen minutes later Phoebe started crying and I said the conversation was over.

I hope Carter bites him.

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4 Comments

Filed under Life

4 responses to “Yelling: the universal language

  1. Jennifer

    Have you learned any Italian sign language? Is the middle finger universal?

  2. Amy

    Oh man, that sucks! Are there any nice neighbors who can help you with this idiot? He sounds like a huge loser who’s just decided to pick on you…because he thinks he can get away with it. Poor you! You’ve been more than gracious.

  3. Bob Mathews

    An they call use the ugly americans. I’m sorry that you have to put up with that.

  4. Holly

    hehehehe….I’m not laughing at you, it’s your last line – ‘I hope Carter bites him!’ I hope so too (or maybe someone else’s dog)!

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