My friend and I waited as the bank teller dutifully listened to our request for Euros from dollars. That was the easy bit. Then came a comedy of errors. There was confusion over the actual vs. perceived exchange rate and then to our horror, the cash machine next to the teller’s desk gobbled my friend's Visa debit card.
I waited to the side during the impassioned negotiations for the release of the debit card (timing is everything in Italy and if you don’t retrieve your card immediately the machine takes precautionary tactical methods to ensure your financial safety. Luckily the laser beams missed).
The lady behind the window of the bank kiosk was present during said machine gobble, and had even instructed us how to use the machine in the first place. It was still the same woman, when my friend had to jump through hoops and be convincing that it was indeed her card that was eaten (keep in mind IDs were shown during the cash exchange mere minutes earlier and we were, and had been, the only people in sight). Was the woman intentionally trying to be difficult or was it the language barrier? Or should we have kindly, yet firmly insisted a need for her to begin taking Ginkgo for memory loss?
I had to take a step back and let my friend deal with the situation solo. I felt like a dual presence would be more than the teller could bear, so several paces to the side, I stood working out words under my breath in broken Italian that I thought might ease the frustration mounting in front of me. And then the Gentlemen arrived.
The Gentlemen were a bit older. They were attired in fine suits and heavy gold watches. They had a strong presence, yet were calm in demeanor. They were handsome. The Gentlemen required cash. They smiled in the general direction of the damsels in distress. The Gentlemen were quite chatty with each other.
They assumed we were American (not too hard to figure out), but what they didn’t realize was that a few weeks of Rosetta Stone book prep, a nine hour flight with a phrasebook and a summer of Latin in fourth grade, meant one of the women in front of them understood the basics of what they were saying. I smiled a big “I’m a daft American” smile, with appropriate shrug, in hopes they’d keep talking.
Translation as follows using the word ITALIAN in parenthesis when I don’t know what’s being said:
“They’re not (Italian). Pretty. That one smiles at us.”
“Ah, yes. She is quite tall (Italian). I like the blonde haired one’s backside.”
“What do you think the (Italian)? They are taking a long time.” The Gentlemen smile wider in my direction. I smile. They nod in that weird, “I have no idea what’s happening but happy no one has weaponry,” way that you see at banks when there is some chaos afoot but no one is sure what the trouble is.
It was at this moment that I awkwardly and apologetically said in English, “The machine ate her card! Wocka wocka wocka.”
I made PACman motions with my hand, and they nodded at me, seemingly trying to understand my English and the beloved sound of PACman eating his pellets.
“I think it is something to do with (Italian) machine. Wocka wocka.” (one of them pointed at the machine so I'm cheating on my understanding there. Clearly they played video games as kids).
“This blonde has a great (Italian). Very big (Italian). Very nice.”
That sound you just heard was the sonicboom that happens when crossing from the No Man’s Land of the Language Barrier, into the easily understood residence of The Language of Lust. Their kindly business demeanor had turned into that of Hungry Wolfmen looking for a meal.
“They’re hot looking but look like they’ve had a long day. Do you think they (Italian)”
Yikes, I’m pretty sure I know what that look means. The Gentlemen smile so wide, I think their heads may tear open. (My what big teeth you have!)
It actually was hot in the building so i could give the benefit of the doubt as to the “hot” reference meaning temperature, and throwing caution to the wind, I took off my jacket to reveal what must have appeared to them to be a pork chop covered tank top. This pleased the Gentlewolves from Italy and their eyes widened further in appreciation. (My what big eyes you have!)
“Maybe this one is a model. Tall. She has good (Italian).”
“She has very (Italian).”
“The little one looks like (Italian). She has (Italian) mouth. Very nice. Very nice.”
After what felt like an eternity, my friend got her card back and it was time to leave. The Gentlewolves smiled and touched their hair and waved with easy gestures as we passed them. We all nodded, each saying, in English, to have a good day. I threw out another “wocka wocka” for good measure.
When we were far enough away (My what big ears you have), I told my friend what I had heard and (sort of) understood to have transpired. We laughed hysterically and high-fived each other for “bringin’ it” even after a long flight and near exhaustion.
Today’s lesson: There may not be a need to spend money on the Rosetta Stone. A smile, pork chop tank top, a little lust and knowledge of 80s video games, is all you really need.