It’s a hot sunny late April day in Monteverde Vecchio, our neighbourhood in Rome. I need some stuff from the supermarket – I generally buy food at one of the markets, but the supermarket is good for its eco-branded bog roll and whatnot.
Leaving the house, I’m met by ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Kate Bush being blasted from a raised ground floor flat. It’s somewhat incongruous, but joyfully so as Kate is the one musician I’ve listened to all my life.
I fall in behind a pasty, chunky guy in shorts and flipflops. Clearly a foreigner, as such attire is generally non si fa (not done) for Italians, unless you’re at the beach. I may be acquiring some local prejudices, as I speed up to overtake him, then head to the ATM. I wait at the door to the vestibule where the cash machine is located. He falls in behind me, a micro orderly queue. A Brit perhaps. Two ladies, presumably a mother and a nonna (granny) pull up with a pair of double buggies. They don’t form an orderly queue.
After a trial of patience with the ATM (they seem extraordinarily slow here. Maybe I’m just even more impatient), I turn to leave and find the doorway flanked by the buggies, one of the occupants on his potty right in the middle of the thoroughfare. I giggle, I think the mum does too, but it’s not funny enough to make her consider putting young Giovanni’s potty slightly, you know, out of the doorway.
At the supermarket, I gather my goods, head for the till. The woman in front is on her mobile. The woman on the till is busy chatting with her colleague. For the best part of a minute, the woman in front holds out her bank card, not looking at the woman on the till. The woman on the till is chatting over her shoulder and doesn’t notice the bank card.
I finally get to shuffle forward, around the woman yakking on her mobile. Luckily the till’s “shoot” is divided into two areas, so I’m able to pack without getting muddled up with Senora Yakki. I hurry though, as I’m aware of the next person’s goods building up behind me.
The charge is €22.35. I don’t have €2.35, so I make a comment about not having enough change, as usual. Change is an issue here. Vendors welcome cash, but they particularly welcome exact change. One cash till lady was very sour with me when I tried to pay for something costing €10.70 with a €20 note, but if you ain’t got the change you ain’t got the change.
We tend to generally get €50 notes from ATM, as we get out money to split between us. Except it’s hard to split as we can’t easily get change. Even the friendly chap at the local launderette has to generally nip next door when I offer him a €20 to settle my €14 bill.
I muster some change, 35c. It’s a gesture. The woman seems appreciative, and even laughed at my comment, so presumably my Italian is making some progress. Unless of course she was just laughing politely but didn’t understand a word I said.
Leaving, I run the gauntlet of beggars, and head home. A door in a palazzo opens on the pavement and a dog emerges, barking. It’s the sort of bark that’s on that fine dividing line between assertive and aggressive. A nonna strolling by smiles indulgently, which is very much si fa when it comes to daffy dogs here. The dog – miraculously – shuts up, and is followed out by another mother, holding the leash, dragging out huge plastic ride-on toy car, and a child. The mother is muttering something about scappare – the verb to escape or flee. I can’t make out whether she’s referring to the dog escaping, or the child, or even her own desire to flee.