The wallet bulged with the usual stuff: receipts, photos, credit cards and Lira.
I sat in our car, waiting for Judge Blah to return the wallet and file our police report. The parking lot was vacant except for a few cars. All was quiet except for my sniffles.
Minutes passed; the air in the car became stuffy, so I opened the door, setting off the alarm. Perfect. My stress returned; my breathing tightened. In the rear view mirror, I saw Judge Blah walking back to the car.
Get out Cheri. I need your help. You speak Spanish.
But we’re in Italy.
Don’t be smart. Judge Blah slammed the gavel in his mind; his patience was gone.
To say that the Carabinieri (Italian police) behind the counter were three of the biggest imbeciles I have ever met would be a cruel stereotype.
To say that the Americans (Judge Blah and his wife) in front of the counter were two of the biggest clowns they had ever met would be a cruel stereotype.
Alas, a shred of truth is in most stereotypes.
The lobby was small and spare; the Carabinieri were young and gorgeous. While I recovered in the car, Judge Blah had tried to communicate in broken Italian, but the guys were watching the World Wrestling Federation on a small TV sitting on the counter. They spoke no English and had no land line telephone. Judge Blah reported that the scene was primitive.
Did you use your ten Italian words to let them know we were ripped off in Florence? My cynicism had returned.
Judge Blah told me he had earnestly tried the following polite conversation:
Judge Blah – Buono Giorno [Good Day]
Carabinieri- Buono Giorno, signore.
J.B.- Grazia [Thank you]
C. – Prego [You’re welcome]
J.B.- Dove la stanza da bagno? [Where is the bathroom?]
C. – Laggiù, lei l’americano muto! [Over there, you dumb American.]
J.B.- Lei ha un tonico di vodka? [Do you have a vodka tonic?]
C. – No return conversation as Hulk Hogan threw Jimmy Snuka off the ropes and into the audience.
Then Judge Blah tried mime. He dropped the wallet and looked back at the police boys. With his eyebrows arched and his lips pursed like a Cheerio, he pointed down to the lonesome wallet. Wallet lost, wallet found. You see, Dorks? The Three Stooges shrugged their big Italian shoulders and went back to watching wrestling.
It seemed his staid judicial temperament did not yield itself to the creativity and freedom of a mime. He was no Telestes, the Greek version of Mike Myers, who in Aeschylus’s The Seven Against Thebes, resorts to exaggerated gyrations to make his point.
That’s where I came in. In Spanish.
Hola, senores. [Hi, guys.]
Como Estas? [How are you?]
Tenemos problema grande. [We have a big problem.]
They ignored me.
Escúchele tipos guapos. Mi marido es un juez importante. [Listen you handsome guys. My husband is an important judge.]
They not only ignored me with this news but also laughed.
Bam!! Hulk Hogan dropped Jimmy Superfly Snuka to the mat and choked him.
Then it happened.
All the frustrations of the day coalesced into an emotional heaving worthy of Ethel Barrymore.
First, the tears trickled, then streamed, and then surged.
The spell was broken. The match ended. One of the Carabinieri, the best looking one I might add, softened and waved me to the counter.
We had a conversation, of sorts. I cried; he sympathized.
We gave a police report.
We left for Montefollonico.
I looked like Hell but was headed for Paradiso.
Such was the Divine Comedy of life that day in Siena.