Keys, mental lapses and landlords

It’s never good when your landlords call you and yesterday was no exception. Paul was in Torino for the Slow Food Festival with Dan and Eric, enjoying forty-eight hours of serious eating. Back in Rome, Phoebe and I had a nice weekend ourselves; we walked, ate and played with friends, most of it pretty slow.

Then yesterday we were going shopping for long-sleeved onesies. Not that it’s cold in Rome now, not that you can find a 3-pack of onesies, but we’re headed to Prague next week and I’m sure the temps will eventually drop in Italy too. So we were off.

Coats on and into the elevator we went. We greeted a lady in the lobby and opened the mailbox to find two letters from the INS. Now, as visitors in a foreign land, these are the scariest initials to see in one’s mailbox. But upon closer inspection I realized they were both addressed to someone else entirely. Good. But since this was important to someone, not just an advertisement for cheap furniture, I spent a couple of minutes trying to arrange the mail on top of the boxes in a way that would be easy to find. Here comes someone else through the lobby, hellos from Phoebe and myself. And we’re off again.

It was when we got to Via Veneto that my purse starting vibrating and ringing. I picked up and heard my landlord’s voice booming through the line in his usual way, a little too loud. “Hello, did you leave your keys in Via Nizza?” Confused I thought to myself, did I? “Yes, I think you did. In the mailbox, maybe today or yesterday? The woman on the first floor has found them.” Oh. Yes. “Do you have an extra set to get back in the building?” No but I’ll try the neighbor, I explained. “Ok, let me tell you how it’s arranged. You will buzz Madame Pastore, like ‘Shepard’, and she is on the first floor. She will give you your keys.” A little embarrassed but grateful for the care, I assured him that we’d be back in an hour to collect our keys.

Onesies in hand and one bus ride later, Phoebe and I returned to the building. I assumed she didn’t speak English so I practiced my conversation a little in my head before pressing the Pastore button. I got as far as, “Buonjo…” before she buzzed me in. So I quickly stuffed Phoebe’s stroller into the elevator and pushed Piano 5 as I always do. This allowed me to make eye contact with M. Pastore, who was standing outside her flat holding my keys, just as we continued past on our way up to the fifth floor. You can’t change floors once you make a selection on our antiquated elevator–and it’s glass. Ugh. Back down to the first floor. I don’t know how to say, “my husband is out of town this weekend and I guess I’m a little tired” in Italian so I just shrugged as she raised her eyebrows and at last handed me my keys.

But the funniest part is the extreme intervention in the first place. If I saw someone’s keys dangling from the mailbox downstairs, I think I’d just leave them. But not the Italians. This was a mission; there was action to take, calls to make, plans to arrange. It’s sweet, I think.

Paul is home now.


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