Monday, September 11, 2017

Directions To Nowhere

Perhaps you know Karl Pilkington, a worldly maladjusted man on tv, who was forced to visit famous places all over the world.   I have had my own frustrating Pilkinton experiences, discouraging me to be disheartened and frustrated.   There have been many incidences where I wanted to throw up my hands and raise a white flag in desperation.  

One of the first of these episodes occured when I was first in Padova, completely lost, and in need of directions to an internet shop.   This became a fishing expedition to find someone who could give me exact directions.  My immediate plan was to seek someone on the street who looked like he or she would know where to find  internet shop.  All the people I asked  seemed to know a place, and after speaking to each one, I followed their directions.  Back and forth I walked through Padova, but each time finding that the previous person’s directions led me on a wild goose chase.  After never finding what I was seekiing,  I began to perceive that Italians don’t like to admit that, either they do not know where I wanted to go, or they are really lousy in giving directions.  

Finally I eventually ended up back where I started at the big market in the center of Padova.  I decided to ask a taxi driver to help me.  He, in turn, consulted another taxi driver, and eventually  a group of taxi drivers gathered and using Italian hand gestures and loud conversation they came to a conclusion.  The first driver then motioned for me to get into his car, and I, being tired from walking, crawled into his tiny Italian made car.  
We drove through the city, and after 10 minutes I began wondering if I was being taken on a long ride to unload my wallet.  Blocks went by as I realized I was getting further from the center.  Surely there was an internet shop in the center, why were we driving away?  
The driver stopped in front of a sporting goods store.  He pointed for me to go inside.  Out of frustration I suggested a few ideas in English, which he did not understand!  But what the heck, I paid some euros, got out and went inside the store.  You can imagine the  sporting good clerks  when I told them that the taxi brought me to their shop and told me that there was internet to use there.  You can also imagine how I felt!

That day Italy lost that romantic place in my mind.   I never did use the internet that day.  It was a low point in my life in Italy, but it was also my first day to learn survival tactics in asking directions.  Here is what I have learned.

First, when speaking in English to an Italian who understands English, I always ask, “Please point, as the bird flies, where I will end up.”  By getting them to point with their finger, I usually have better success in ending up where I want to go.  You see, you are not only battling directions that could be a bit off, but you are also up against streets that are crooked, and with changed names every block.

I have had Italians point to the right, while saying go left, which is frustrating, but I also find that many times they do not know the place you are seeking but will refused to admit it.  They will actually blather on, pointing and gesticulating as if they know exactly  the place I am seeking.  This is a serious problem in the basic make up of Italians.  And they do this to each other, which is quite hilarious.  

Bad Directions But Great Pasta
In case you are planning a visit I have made a list of phrases to help you survive your adventure.   At the very least you can point to the phrase and then fill in where you want to go.  

Buona Fortuna!  Good luck!

Scusa, dov’è  -– Excuse me, where is … ?
mi sono perso  — I am lost
punta nella direzione in cui e’  — point in the direction where it is
girare a destra – turn right
girare a sinistra – turn left
andare dritto – go straight on
attraversare la strada – cross the street
strada —street
angolo — corner
a piedi 50 metri —walk 50 meters
poi — then
va a 40 metri — you go 40 meters
trove  — find
guarda —look

Scusa, c’è  ______  qui vicino? – Excuse me, is there a (bancomat) near here?


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