Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Houston, We Have a Problem, Part I

Grilled mixed seafood 

 “When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable.” – Clifton Fadiman

(Prologue: Since I don't have photos of the parties involved, I'm using photos of food.  They're more interesting, anyway.)

“Where are y’all from?” a  lady with short brown hair asked us. The four of us were sharing a large table in Taverna del Capitano, a small restaurant in Vernazza, Italy.  We’d just arrived from Bologna, settled in to our rooms (owned as it were by the Taverna owners), and wanted food.  Fast.  Since it was pouring outside, we couldn’t sit there, and the only available seating inside was at the table the lady and two of her friends had.

“Where are y’all from?”  Her syrupy voice irritated me immediately.

“Las Vegas and Idaho,” one of us replied, and I pointed to Twyla, the only non-Nevadan in our quartet.

“What about you?” I asked.

“We’re from Galveston,” she answered. “That’s in Texas.  Near Houston. You know. NASA’s there.”  She pronounced it "Na-Saw."

Said irritation was justified.  Gosh. We  had no idea that Galveston was in Texas. Nor did we know that NASA was there. We all thought we lost Texas in the war with Mexico.

Pork and artichoke
 Throughout lunch, the three women talked about this and that with us. They brought up a particular house-flipping program that features a team from Las Vegas.

“I don’t watch it anymore,” I said.  “{The star} is an idiot.”

“Yep,” agreed Kerri, “he’s an idiot.” Brownie didn’t like that comment.  “But the Property Brothers are very nice,” Kerri continued.

"Jonathon's gay," one of them said. "I read it on the internet."  I rolled my eyes. Oh, that makes it true, I thought.  The nonsense continued for a time, and they were finally ready to leave.

"We have to catch a train at 3:06," Brownie said.

"What town are you staying in?" I asked.

"I don't know. Where are we staying?" she asked the other gals.  Like her, they had no idea.  "I think it begins with an "S," she continued.  There are no towns whose names begin with an "S" in the Cinque Terre.  I just smiled and tried to keep my eyes in my head.

Pasta e fagiolini

The waiter walked by and placed the check on the table.  He delivered something to the table next to us and walked by again.  Brownie grabbed him.  "Can you separate this check for us?" she asked.  Upset, the waiter said, "It is difficult to do that."  Brownie replied, "I asked outside, and the lady said you'd separate the check."

"What lady? Why you didn't ask me when you ordered?" the waiter said as he slinked away.

"Italian restaurants don't usually separate checks," I told her.

"I don't care what they usually do," she snapped at me.  "We want separate checks." 

 The women poured over the check, and the waiter passed by again.  Brownie stopped him.

"What is this 6 euro charge 'coperto?'" Brownie asked.  The waiter explained that it was the cover charge and for bread.  "I'm not paying this," she told him.  Eyes wide, he stared at her for a minute.

"But, madam," he said, "it is on the menu. Everyone pays coperto."

"I did not eat your crappy bread," she insisted.  The waiter gave up and walked away. 

(For the record, the bread was great.)

Twyla told me that she could tell by the look on my face that I had "checked out."  Truthfully, I was afraid to say something because I wasn't sure what would come out of my mouth.   Kerri tried to explain that the coperto covers more than the bread. 

The waiter came by again and dropped the separated checks on the table.  The women were silent at that point, and I thought we were out of the danger zone.

Oh, silly me.

To be continued....

1 comment:

  1. The hazards of traveling outside of the US. Often inside too. I'm planning my trip to Japan in 2016 and I am hoping that I will be the only American going there at that time. Probably not. An aside: Maybe we can convince Mr. Trump to give Texas back to Mexico in exchange for the wall they will be building for him.