Saturday, August 18, 2012

In which we meet the carabinieri

We were driving home last night and there were a bunch of police officers standing around their cars, laughing and smoking and all looking like various versions of Robert De Niro in his scarier roles. Which, other than those horrid fart-joke Ben Stiller movies, is pretty much all of them.

The carabinieri seem much more frightening than the American police force. Maybe that is because despite all of the stories, I still believe that American police officers are there to keep us safe. Or maybe it is because Italian law requires you to have ID on your person at all times, which seems creepy, like they are ready to cart you off at a moment's notice. (I don't understand why this is, but I carry John's and mine even when we take the dogs for a walk. ) Or maybe it is because the carabinieri sometimes have machine guns and have those high boots and wear uniforms reminiscent of other European uniforms of those who were in a race against Indiana Jones to find the ark of the covenant.

A carabinieri( my Italian isn't good enough to know if this is a word that encompasses both singular and plural forms, so we will just pretend it does.) stepped in front of our car and waved us over to the side of the road. He asked to see Mike's drivers license. Mike handed it to him and the officer told him he could not drive in Italy with an American driver's license. Which is absolutely not true. He didn't ask to see the car registration, he didn't tell us why he pulled us over. He just stood there, flipping Mike's license back and forth and making clicking noises with his tongue. Mike took out his super-special Italian card that identifies him as one who lives and works in Italy and handed that to the officer (I like to think they are sort of magic protective cards) The officer seemed disappointed that Mike had that. He said a bunch of stuff in Italian which --again, my Italian is very poor-- but it sounded like, "Dammit. I was going to throw this whole stupido Americano family in jail so that we could all laugh and laugh at the stupid Americans who come to take pictures of the Colosseum and now they have the magic cards!"

He then walked to the front of the car and pointed to a headlight. Which was clearly not out or broken in any way. And yes, it did cross my mind that he was going to smash it and then haul Mike off to jail. He told Mike to get out of the car. He said a bunch of stuff in Italian. He pointed to the headlight. Mike nodded thoughtfully and acted like he understood his point and agreed. "Hmmm," said Mike as though they were together tackling this issue of the non-existent problem with the headlight. Which seemed much better than trying to reason with and/or ask what the hell was going on.

Mike returned to the car. The officer walked over to the other herd of officers. They conferred. I think they said, "They have the magic cards. Let us drink espresso  and shoot our guns until another car drives by."

The officer then strode out into the middle of traffic and stopped all the cars that were pretending the teeny one lane road was a four lane highway and raised his hand for them to stop and motioned for us to drive way. Which we did.

"Did you see that?" Mike asked. "He had Han Solo pants."

Han Solo pants 
carabinieri pants

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