Last week I had dinner with my Italian cousins Tuesday and Friday. In the course of two meals I learned a great deal about Italians, their perceptions of the current state of affairs in Italy, their thoughts on Americans, Germans, and French; and of course, I ate like a king.
The first dinner was a family meal – just my cousin Guido, his wife, daughter, son, and Guido’s brother Luca. The second was a dinner party with friends and family. During both meals, many people ate with their cell phones at the table. This was less of a surprise at the ‘family meal’. However, I must have looked a bit shocked when cell phones came out of pockets and were set beside plates during the dinner party because an Italian woman sitting across from me said “We Italian’s love our cell phones. In fact, many of us have two.” I told her I was beginning to figure that out from watching people in the street and on buses and in restaurants, grocery stores, etc. However, what I find more surprising is the number of people over 50 or 60 sending text messages or SMS messages as they are called here.
In fact, I almost walked right into a grandmother in her 70s the other day as I was rounding a corner, walking top speed to catch a bus and there she was, head down, walking my direction, sending a text message. I couldn’t have been more shocked because I’m fairly certain my parents don’t even know their cell phones can be used to send text messages and they are much younger that this woman appeared to be.
To return to the dinner party, I asked this woman if the cell phones were used in place of e-mail because I had heard a rumor that Italians weren’t as obsessed with their e-mail as Americans or Germans. She said yes that was true and that people only have internet access in their homes if they have children who need it for school. This would shed some light on the problem I am currently having.
First of all, I had a really difficult time finding an apartment with internet access to rent in Rome. I saw a lot of advertisements that read “Internet on demand” but my friend Laura (an American who has lived here for 12 years) explained that this meant “no matter how much you demand it, you are not going to get internet.” I did find one place with internet access where I am living currently.
For first two weeks, all was well, I had fast reliable internet access. Then one day last week, it just stopped working. I depressed every button, unplugged everything, and played with everything that looked like it might make a difference. I had a small meltdown over this because I knew that getting it fixed would involve getting in touch with the rental agent who would then need to get in touch with the landlord who would then need to get in touch with the ‘fastweb’ people. I know from experience this is too may Italians to depend on to get a problem solved quickly. So, imagine my surprise when I wrote my agent on Thursday and heard back two hours later that my landlord would come Monday with a technician. I thought to myself, this could be an Italian miracle . . . if it actually happens.
This was the e-mail I was greeted with when I logged into my e-mail an hour ago:
landlord with technician (he has a problem today) will come tomorrow afternoon.
My friend Laura told me that recently she was scheduled to take a friend to visit The Golden House of Nero (also known as the Domus Aurea). To visit you must reserve tickets in advance and now they are no longer taking reservations over the phone, you must do it via the internet. Laura did so and when she arrived at the Domus Aurea and went to the ticket booth, they claimed they did not have her reservation. After debating with the ticket agent for several minutes over what had happened he finally looked at her and said: “Signora, this is a beautiful country, but . . . we are not so organized.”