My two fabulous friends Haithem & Erik arrive today from Berlin. I’m excited just thinking of standing at the gate with arms opened wide to greet them in true Italian style. The airport trip involves two buses. The first, from my home to Florence’s train station, was thirty minutes late, and now the main airport bus is inexplicably paused at the curb. I board the empty bus with trepidation, as for the first time in weeks of riding busy public transportation I’m the sole occupant. Not familiar with this route, I double-check with the driver to assure myself that I am in fact on the right bus. His exasperated response leads me to believe he’s not as excited about this little trip as I am. Not to worry, I’m in the homestretch now, it’s not as if we have to interact. Right?
After a respectful wait of ten minutes I dare to approach his plexiglas-walled domain. To his and my disbelief, I utter an embarrassing example of “Italish” (English-Italian): “Howa longa we be delay?” My disparaging words hang like a cultural abyss between us, punctuating my inability to speak the language. Instantly his posture becomes taut and defensive, as he leans back and out of view shunning my apologetic expression, he growls with the loathing of a cornered alley-cat: “dieci minuti !!”
I return to my seat mortified by my septic question and frustrated by his vague answer. The English translation of “dieci minuti” is “ten minutes”. Not a comforting response as many servicesin Florence are promised to take place in “dieci minuti”…
Lunch will be served in “dieci minuti” … The museum will open in “dieci minuti“… Your taxi, bus or train will arrive in “dieci minuti” ….
It’s been my experience that the Italian clock beats at half time.
A most appealing concept as you unwind in an outdoor cafe surrounded by spring jasmine, enjoying sweet melon wrapped in prosciutto, and sipping prosecco from a crystal flute. This feature of the unhurried Italian culture I truly love…
I sit restlessly in my seat imagining my friends standing at the gate, searching for my face, not sure if they should wait for me, hire a cab, or take the bus into town. I check the time on my cell phone and realized it’s dead – a victim of my carelessness. In my excitement and haste I had forgotten its charger’s temperamental nature and neglected to double-check this crucial detail.
Now I’m late with no possible contact to my friends, adding insult to injury is being held hostage on a bus with an ill-tempered Italian I unwittingly insulted. My painful penance is having to watch while he stares blankly ahead picking food from his teeth with a recycled toothpick he fished from the window sill.
I’d allowed myself a generous ninety minutes for what normally is a fifty minute trip. I’ve been in transit a total of sixty-seven minutes, and still counting….. aghhhhhhhh!!