It is October 5, and I have walked to my usual bar every morning I carry my laptop with which I study for the Italian driver exam. If you walked into this bar you would know me right away. I am the only person with a jacket hanging on the back of the chair. I am the only person not wearing scarf. I am in short sleeves, and I am here for the long haul nursing my Coffee Americano. I refuse to give up summer easily. I am hard-core!
You see, just two weeks ago, as if a starter shot his gun off to announce winter, all Italians made the fundamental decision to begin wearing coats and scarves. Even if the sun comes out and makes the day extra warm they, in a “one for all all for one spirit”, remain wrapped up like Eskimos. Once inside the bar, Italians never take their jackets and scarves off when seated. Almost all of the customers will be leaving this watering hole within a few moments. Many of them are there only long enough for two or three swallows and then they leave with a quick “Arrivederci!
This battle of clothing, I always lose. I lose it every Fall. Today I have to raise the white flag of surrender as I notice the room is beginning to get colder and I have to put my jacket back on. Looking around I see that one of the customers has exited and left the door open. Since it is just a tad over 50 degrees (10 C.) outside, things quickly get a bit nippy.
The new owner of the bar, doesn’t mind as he likes to keep the door open as much as possible, even when it is cold outside. I think he believes that having the door open will bring in more customers. The regulars are not coming anymore. Last week I watched him stand out on the street for about half and hour looking up and down wondering what happened to all those patrons.
I begin to lose interest in the driving exam, it is tedious work and there are over 7,000 questions to study. I have read 6,650 of them! My mind wanders. I begin to think of the differences I have experienced in the past 7 years.
I will admit that Americans are wasteful with energy. The use of air conditioning and heating units are really different between our countries. There is a law here in the Veneto that heaters are not to be used until October 15, houses not to be warmer than 20 Centigrade (68 F) and heaters must be turned off on April 15. We Americans abuse the right to have good air conditioning and heaters, owning devices far more capable to cool and heat large multi-storied homes with a basement. (My old house in Colorado) The resulting difference is that Italians have to wear a lot more clothing indoors during the winter than I am used to. I have also been spoiled by living in Los Angeles many years.
During the spring and summer while in a bus or a train Italians hardly ever experience air conditioning. They quietly endure sultry days, without complaining. I have endured some torturous, scorching hot rides, with my face soaked in sweat, and I wonder why don’t these folks at least crack open a window? In July the driver of my bus, a spitting image of an Italian Billy Bob Thornton, has his window open for a breeze. Billy Bob thought nothing of neglecting his passengers, whose windows were not made to open. A flick of the switch on the AC would have liberated us from the disabled list. (It was over 90 that day.) I had a malevolent thought to hijack the bus and force the driver to sit in the back! On another day in August my train was leaving Venice and my car was at least 100 degrees with the high humidity we get here and not one person opened a window.
That’s my campaign against the predicament of life in the Veneto. I am not sure I will ever get used to this, and probably to old to change. The poster above was used during the election, and I am what Italians call a Stranieri.