Thursday, May 29, 2014

Throw Back Thursday Photos. Except it's Wednesday. And the photos are new.

light through the pantheon

Not Old Navy bathing suits

Adorbs! VW wedding bus with honeymoon surfboards!

by the time I walked home, this matchbox car was gone...

I had no idea these existed outside of Mad Men


jellyfish in sabaudia

first beach day of the year 

As an American, I am not familiar with  "NICK, the easy rider maple syrup aka the American Way of Life." But it was 5.50 euro as compared to the 9.90 euro "Canadian" maple syrup, so welcome home, NICK! 

purple socks

nothing says Italy like a Confederate flag helmet

Friday, May 16, 2014

I don't like line jumpers or the mask from Scream

So my son needed a new bed. This necessitated going to Ikea. I know, I know…you are all thinking but wait, you live in a major European city! I mean, not major enough that it is ever destroyed in apocalypse movies the same way that Paris and New York and London are, but it still is a big city and it is in Europe. One might assume that in such a city, a 40-something person would perhaps have furniture options that did not involve sweating over cartoon instructions and assembling said furniture  with those little black not-a-wrench-not-a-screwdriver thingys. But one would be wrong.

We do our best to avoid Ikea during any reasonable hour because it is difficult to maneuver around the Italians who bring every family member from their second cousin's niece's boyfriend's little sister to their great-great grandmother and then they all proceed to heatedly argue over whether to buy the Glurg or the Haav while the leashes of their dogs wrap around your legs if you stand in front the 1700 pack of tea lights for too long. (In the end they usually go for the Glurg. Who wouldn't?)

I once tried hitting Ikea on a Wednesday morning. I arrived five minutes before it opened and found myself waiting in a mass of people behind a roped-off entrance as though we were all participants in a 5K American Turkey Trot. So really there is never a good time to go to Ikea, there are just times when you may get a parking space and times when you may not.

I had tried to order my son's bed online, but the Italian Ikea website had been having technical difficulties for over a month and finally I knew to admit defeat and order it in person.

The drive to Ikea isn't bad as it is a pleasant blend of small town roads and highway; you pass both ancient aqueducts and flocks of sheep guarded by fluffy dogs. It has only one spot that makes my palms sweat and that is when "merging" (*there isn't actually any merging here) onto the highway, you have to cut across four lanes of traffic to get off the exit that is parallel to where you have just entered the highway, but generally it is fine because the sense of accomplishment afterwards is akin to giving birth.

However, I had barely left our apartment when I hit a snafu. You know how all roads lead to Rome? All the roads leading out of Rome and to Ikea were closed and being guarded by police. Fences had been erected across all road entrances and then the entrances were further barricaded by police cars and then lastly the police stood in front of them. Maybe the roads were on strike? The detour route to which every single car, scooter, motorcycle, bicycle tour and tour bus were being directed was the Appian Way. Yes, that Appian Way. The one with all the original stones dated back to 312 BC that bear the deep imprints of chariot wheels. The one that you usually aren't allowed to drive on. For drainage purposes (those clever Romans) the road comes to a peak in the middle. It is difficult to walk on even in hiking boots. But driving on? It was not unlike a simulator ride at Disney or an old fashioned American wooden roller coaster. The ones that really hurt your neck and jar your body to the point that your bones vibrate? Yeah. Like that.  I just tried to focus on what would happen first: would my car bottom out or tip over? And would I at least get a free cornetto out of the deal from a sympathetic passer by?

first we tilt one way...

and then we tilt another

My car's alignment will never be the same, but with all the other cobblestone roads and potholes, the alignment wasn't great to begin with and so I was extremely pleased to emerge 1 1/2 hours later from the Appian Way unscathed. And then I looked in my rear view mirror and saw that someone had strapped the mask from the movie Scream to the headrest of their passenger seat. Sure. Moving on.

I decided to decompress by stopping at a shoe store. I forever live in the hope that I will find shoes that are as comfortable as Birkenstocks but have four inch heels. I did not find those shoes but I did manage to knock over a towering display of boxed sandals that was over five feet tall and stacked into six columns. Yep. Every single box had thumped and clattered onto the floor by the time I was done. It was like a very bad sitcom in which the character who is a little bit dumb but has a heart of gold knocks down the pyramid of soup cans in the grocery store. The salesperson rushed over as I apologized over and over and began to rebuild the tower. The salesperson repeatedly and very kindly told me not to worry and to stop helping her, but as it was 100% my fault, I couldn't stop helping. I was doing a good job. I stacked the shoes in the correct order, largest size to smallest size and everything, but the salesperson stopped being so kind and told me seriously to knock it off and stop helping. So I did. And I apologized  a couple dozen more times and thanked her profusely for cleaning up my giant mess and then I left, completely re-energized and ready to begin my day at Ikea!

And actually it wasn't a bad day at all. I found the bed I wanted. I dithered over whether to get the beech, birch, oak, black-brown, or white washed oak (beech won out as I knew it would). I managed to convey my order to the very helpful man at the computer who was friendly and patient and accepting of my broken Italian and who reminded me to buy slats for the bed and whew! Ordeal over.

Except you know how when you go to Ikea you suddenly see all these other things that you didn't even know you needed but clearly you do so you have to get a big cart and fill it to overflowing and you can hardly see over the top of it? Yeah, so that happened. And then in usual Rome fashion, there was but one cashier open, but that is par for the course and after two years I no longer even mind. However, I have been having a lot of trouble with line jumpers lately. It is a way of life here and while I never mind the person who has one item when I have 42 who asks if they can go ahead of me because it's the logical and right thing to do( especially as in the grocery store I still attempt to buy my groceries American style and inevitably am asked if I am having a party due to the sheer volume of food), and I don't mind  the little old lady who has only a loaf of bread and pushes past me like I'm not even there, it really sticks in my craw when other people completely ignore the fact that I have been waiting in line and step in front of me to give their order/pay for their items. Prior to the last couple of weeks, it hadn't happened to me all that often but lately, for some unknown reason, it's become a daily thing. Upon asking for advice from my Italian teacher, she wrote down a phrase for me to say. "Just memorize it, "she said."It doesn't really translate." I know that it doesn't have any swears in it because my son hears a lot of Italian swears at school and then we look them up on Google Translate when he comes home and so we are getting pretty fluent in the swears category.

Anyhoo, I was waiting in this very long line when two women appeared and simply got in front of me. There were many people in line behind me, so there was a pretty clear line and it wasn't a situation in which we are all just in a wedge formation pushing forward towards the cashier and may the pushiest person win. Of course the phrase my Italian teacher had taught me flew right out of my head, so I said in Italian, "Excuse me! I was here first." One woman completely ignored me but the other turned around and looked at me as though she had no idea what I was saying. And while I had almost said "Sansa" instead of "sono" (too much Game of Thrones watching lately), I had not. And I knew that my Italian had been correct. So the woman looked at me a moment longer and then decide to ignore me and turned her back to me again. Quite frankly, I had just had enough of being line jumped when I had been patiently waiting for 20 minutes and I wasn't swallowing my annoyance and putting up with it today. I just wasn't.

So I repeated again in Italian that I had been there first. And when she turned around and looked at me in great annoyance with no intention of moving to the back of the line, I switched to English in my frustration and while she may not have understood my words, there could not have been any mistaking my tone of voice. She moved very slightly to the side. Enough that she wasn't directly in front of me but not enough that she wouldn't easily make it to the cashier before I would. Suddenly an Italian woman in line behind me leaned over my cart. "Signora!!" she barked at the woman, "this woman was here first!" She said many more things in Italian but it was too fast for me to understand, although she was clearly giving the line jumper quite a dressing down. The line jumper responded in an indignant tone and my Italian defender turned to me and shrugged and said kindly, "Oh! She is pregnant!" and smiled. Because that is always respected here. I did not think this was a good defense because I have also been pregnant and that never made me butt in line and if she was desperate to pee or something, she could have followed the Italian practice of putting her items on the floor to hold her place in line (that's right. If you get in line and there's a six pack of water on the floor, you have to respect that water as though it is a person and take your place in line behind it. Lining up is all very complicated here.). However, because my kindly Italian defender deemed this okay, I had to make a big show of looking at the woman's belly and smile and exclaim ,"Oh! I see! Please, go ahead!" while I scratched my nose with my middle finger like I was in a John Hughes movie.

And then because I had been petty and jerky with the middle finger move that no one but me noticed or appreciated, when I got to my car in the parking lot, there was a red van that had parked me in. There was no possible way for me to back out of my parking space. There was also no way for me to get into the driver's side via the driver's side door. I know that the usual practice when one is parked in in Rome is to just hold your horn down until the driver emerges from the cafe where they had been having their espresso, waving their hands in a patience!patience! fashion and then they leisurely move their car. However, I was in a big parking lot. And no one was going to come move this monstrosity because I honked my horn. I considered writing down the licence plate number and asking the Ikea people to use their loudspeaker but I had never heard that done in Rome and I didn't know if I would be able to make them understand what I wanted to happen. I have become a parking demon since moving here--possibly even able to rival my sister who can, in one move,  parallel park a monster truck in a space barely large enough for a Smart Car --and studied all my possible maneuvers to get around the truck. There was a car parked on my passenger side, a tree in front of me and the van parked diagonal blocking the area behind me and the driver's side of the car. So I climbed in through the passenger side door and drove over the tree.

Incidentally, the bed should be delivered in three weeks.