Was I in the middle of a culture-clash-stand-off?
I would like to share a moment of innocent, Englishness that crept into a perfectly daily situation here in Italy. Last Saturday, after doing some pre-Monday food and flower errands and secretly cartwheeling inside at the prospect that spring has arrived, I decided to have a refreshment. The sun had suitably wandered over to my side of the piazza, so I took a place in a cafe with floppy Ivy awning and a waiter promptly bumbled over.
He had a creased forehead, piggy eyes and generally looked like a grumpy bugger who was used to sauntering around this piazza for years like a Piazza Squire.
I smiled, lowered my sunglasses and asked for a cappuccino in my best Italian. He frowned, lowered his chin and notepad and put his hands on his hips.
“Un cappuccino?” he gruffed. “A quest’ora?
A cappuccino? At this hour?
I looked at him, blinking in the sun. He looked at me, his moustache bristling as if I’d just produced a shotgun and was threatening to shoot him in the foot.
“If it isn’t a problem?” I retorted, politely (but I like to think with a twinge of sass.)
He continued to stare.
So did I.
Was this – was I in the middle of a culture-clash-stand-off?
He cleared his throat.
“We are actually beyond cappuccino hour, signorina, but, ” he threw me a false smile, “but – of course I can get you one.” He wiggled away and I, dumbfounded, went back to people watching unable to concentrate.
How dare he question my requests and impose his opinion on my coffee-timing standards? How dare he insinuate my cappuccino-hour incomprehension? How can he not know that frothy milk this side of Padova is SO DAMN GOOD and that a measly caffé is sophisticated, but sometimes just DOES NOT SUFFICE?
I felt upset and confused. I didn’t know what to do with myself – what to think.
I’m sure he didn’t mean to hurt me, but he did. Calculatedly, he did not even ask if I wanted something to eat – a fresh cornetto perhaps, a dolcetto? I was sure he did that on purpose to spite me. I knew what I had to do – rise above it and shake it off. Its not worth it, he’s not worth it, the cappuccino’s not worth it. I took a deep breath and told myself to move on.
That minute, my friend swung up to the table beaming with all the joys of spring. But I felt his eyes bearing across at us from behind the bar, as he roughly polished the pearly cups.
The aforementioned cappuccino arrived and, as I’d hoped, was as frothy as ever. BUT I noticed he neglected to add the sprinkled chocolate bits which, everyone knows, is the best bit.
He will regret this, I concluded.