Friday, April 20, 2007

Ding Dong


Napoli, Napoli, how I have neglected dissing you! Yesterday, I was "in line" to order a cappuccino when this woman cut in front of me (I had La Bimba in the stroller and was politely, i.e. stupidly, trying to keep her out of the way of the counter sippers). I said, "Excuse me!" And she said, "Well, I have to order." I said, "So, do I" (subtext: what the fuck else am I doing here, studying to be a barista?), and she said, "I didn't see you." I got to order first, but I missed my chance to say, "What am I transparent?"

Then I went to by a coffee pot, una caffetiera, from the appliance-toiletrees-women's clothing-toy shop on the Corso. There was one in the window for 6.50 euro. I walked in and the old man behind the counter said, "Ask her," pointing to the woman sewing in the corner. This old man (he played one...) just the other day was "gentilissimo" with me, asking me if I lived in the neighborhood (yes) and saying he is at my service, anything I need, just ask. Now I get, "Ask her," grunted at me with no eye contact. So I ask the lady for the 6.50 caffetiera and she says, "Just a moment," and keeps sewing. A few minutes pass and then the man walks to the back and brings me the pot. He turns over the box and underneath is written 10 euro. Uh-oh. He starts snapping at the woman, "This pot costs 10 euro. This is better brand. We are out of the other one? We are so disorganized here! I could sell it to the lady for 8 or 9 euro but we'll lost money!" No eye contact, referring to me in the third person, talking a bunch of smack-ass bullshit. Before things get out of hand, I say, "I'll take it for 8 euro," knowing full well that it is the 6.50 pot and that these people are scum. He really wanted me to take it for 10, so I felt okay, though The Husband said I shouldn't have bought it. (He was right: it works, but I saw a Bialetti, the good brand, for just 13 euro in Piazza Carolina).

I don't think the couple were snickering behind my back once I left, joyful in the face of their semi-successful scam. I don't think they or any other similarly-minded Neapolitan-style capitalists think they are doing anything wrong. Just business.

Today The Husband, La Bimba and I had lunch with two friends, a Spanish woman living in Naples (happy birthday!) and an American man living in Berkeley. We ate at Trattoria San Ferdinando, where the waiter and busboy are dicks to all until they see La Bimba. Then they are nice-ish. I am amazed at how a person can flash a big smile at La Bimba and me, ask after her, say, "complimenti" and then turn dark and try to scam me. How do they do it? It's a skill, a talent. The American man told me that last time the waiter brought them smaller wine glasses than he had done for all the other tables that had ordered bottled wine (my friends ordered house wine), glasses so small La Spagnola bumped her nose in them and had to tip her head all the way back to drink, like taking a shot of cough syrup. Sure enough the same glasses came out this time and if you know me you know my nose is going to be barred from entry. So we asked for and received bigger glasses.

This trattoria, which is a bit upscale and quite good, has one of the best mistranslations I've seen in Italy. Italian menus and signs are notorious for side-splittingly funny English translations (spaghetti with octopussy is one of my favorites from a Roman restaurant...will James Bond be swinging from the strands?). Under the Italian for "ring the bell" (because this Trattoria buzzes its clients in...for fear of having their octopi robbed?), it said, "To Beat the Bell." Bussare means to knock but it is used for doors and bells. They don't say ring the bell. Next time I go to that place I am going to bring a baseball bat and beat the shit out of that bell.

I have been meaning to give my readers a heads up that today is Dance Anywhere. People around the world are going to dance at noon Pacific time (9pm here in Naples, 3pm in NYC), take a video or photograph, send it to my friend Beth, and she will make a multimedia presentation of the event. You have 37 minutes to get ready and shake that thang! The link for Dance Anywhere is on my sidebar. You should be dancing...yeah!

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hahaha! I've been lurking for sometime now and I love your blog! You make me laugh :) My BF lives in Milan and I live in Portland, OR so I've been checking out the expat blogs as of late. Hmm, I'm going to ask him for that Bialetta when he comes in August. Keep up the good writing!

Liz

Anonymous said...

great post... i feel your pain about getting jacked by those "sweet" mom & pop shops. after 10 years in italy, i STILL cannot stomach the lack of service & politeness in the majority of shop owners. was actually glad when they started opening bigger stores & chains because first off, everything has a price written on it, and second you don't have to ask anyone for anything- you just get it yourself and are spared the bad attitude. i came up with a very subtle yet poignant comment to use with rude shopkeppers or "service" people- i ask, in a very genuine, curious way" "Do they pay you extra to be rude to customers? (they usually answer no and i reply)... Then why do it?"
i know naples is pretty famous for ripping off foreigners, but trust me- rome has its share of jerk-offs too. if only they realized how counter-productive it is to be rude & dishonest.

Delina said...

If I'm in that area I'll beat that bell to a pulp too.

Cherrye said...

Your post was lol funny. I've seen your blog title here and there - so glad I stopped by.

Doug said...

Hey, what's your opinion of Gene Kelly as a dancer? Just saw him on TV, and thought he was terrific...

Doug said...

Also, Donna got me a octangular version of that kind of coffee-maker, to which I am now addicted. That's the way coffee was meant to be made...well, maybe that and the Turkish way, which is probably still my favorite.

Doug said...

Oh, and to give you an impressively long comment string (let me know if you get e-mailed every time!), I must say the three or so days total I spent in Naples, I was not ripped off. That I know of. :)

Anonymous said...

bingo- "that you know of".... neapolitans are VERY slick.

Marmite Breath said...

Buy the bialetti! There's one you can get that gives the caffe a good crema on top, just like in the bars. I've not been in Naples for three years now, but the bialetti is a constant source of happiness for me. (I think I paid like 12 euro for it in Carrefour).

Great blog, by the way.

rompipalle said...

I would never have guessed this entry would have garnered so many responses. Welcome newcomers! Gene Kelly was a fabulous dancer, but Turkish coffee is nasty according to me and my sneaky neapolitan brethren.

deaintheraw said...

Hi I am Dea and I have been reading your blog this weekend, enjoying it thoroughly. I am from the DC area and have lived in Sicily for the last 4.5 yrs
As to the rip off tendency of people here, I live in Sicily and its the same, I still don't have the maturity and grace you have regarding this way of being. It still outrages me. I just have a hard time accepting it. You are a gifted writer and molto molto simpatica.
Tanti auguri to you and your lovely family.
I live in Marsala and my husband is almost ready to relocate to the US with me, almost. Ciao e di nuovo tanti auguri.