The Italian Job: the pursuit of enLIGHTenment

Like in any other country, visiting Italy and actually living here are two completely different things. First of all, my language skills have been pushed to the limit, jumping in on the deep end. I understand Italian very well, but my spoken Italian lacks practice and I rely on my fluency in Spanish to get the through sometimes… the months of preparation were about to be tested in a major way. It began by calling the landlady from the highway to inform her of our pending arrival. Unlike her emails that were written in English, she spoke very little of it. I managed, and then when we arrived, I received instructions from two gentlemen who handed over the apartment. My brain was still in a bit of a daze but I understood that I was not supposed to use the dishwasher, and which keys were for what door. So far so good…

Then the other night I blew a fuse (literally) when I ran the washing machine and the oven at the same time and got on with my cooking dinner. This multitasking is nothing new to me and I didn’t think anything of it until everything went pitch dark and the current occupant of the toilet complained. We stood in complete darkness and I had no clue where the fuse box was, so I called the landlady, who in turn called the building manager. After five phone calls back and forth, I received instructions on how to check for the minor fuse box and where to find the main circuit breaker. Once we were enlightened again, I ran my appliances again, only to blow the fuse again. OK, then I figured I couldn’t run everything at the same time and shut down the oven because the laundry was more important (and was already running).

The next morning, I received a call from a man whom I understood to be the electrician and said he was coming by in the evening. We agreed on 19:00, but when the time came he called to inform me that all his workers were busy on other projects, could he come the next morning instead. Fine, we agreed on 09:00. On the dot this morning, a giant man who looked uncannily like the retired FIFA referee Pierluigi Collina showed up at the door and I led him to the fuse box. He looked at me with great consternation and said he was here to change the locks. After talking back and forth, me arguing that I needed an electrician not a locksmith, he arguing that he knew nothing about fuse boxes, he called his boss, Bernardo. Perfect timing because Bernardo was right outside the door. He also said they were sent to change the locks by the manager and the landlady. OK. Mind you, all this is going on in Italian because neither of them speak English! So I prepared coffee for them and gave them cookies.

When they finished the job Bernardo asked me if my electricity problem was solved and I said no, and explained my dilemma. He replied it was an old problem of the apartment. The neighborhood has not upgraded the power supply to handle the new appliances, and a lot of these apartments are 200-300 years old. I grumbled about the inefficiency of it all, he told me to relax and just run one at the time. Maybe there is a deeper lesson there.

On their way out, locksmith #1 emptied all his pockets (all 10 of them) because he couldn’t find… you guessed it, his keys!

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