Jun 21, 2007 - Nibbles    No Comments

Tests of Self Reliance

So Laurie and I went to dinner with Tom, Mindy, Lauren at a place just off Piazza Navona. I normally prefer some a little less touristy (read: better food, and not a rip off), but we were all hungry and we wanted to stay close. (Laurie got bit by something and her leg wasn’t feeling so hot.)

Lauren and I just made an executive decision on which restaurant chosing the one which had an open table seemingly set just for us. After getting seated I suggested that we order salad (caprese) for the table since we were so famished. The idea went around and collectively no decision was made. The waiter approached and suggested salad and bruschetta for the table, and with a tired nod Tom conceeded. I concurred, that was the basic idea I had had as well… just couldn’t get anyone to speak up. Mindy also chose the house vino rosso, commenting on how good the house wine in Italy is, and so cheap!

A while later the antipasto arrived, and commentary began on how much it might be. We ended up with a indivdual plate with a slice of bruschetta each, a plate of procisutto, and two plates of caprese. I estimated about 8 euro per plate (counting the bruschetta as two). Discussion ensued about whether or not plates could be sent back, and anxiety began to build around the table. Finally Lauren suggested—wisely, a woman after my own heart—that we try to relax as it isn’t worth ruining the meal over.

Our plates arrived, and I have to say that mine was really quite good. I believe we also had two bottles of wine, and as much water. Then the bill came, and the table was in an uproar. There was an arguement with the waiter regarding how much the antipasto was (he had originally said about €4-5 each while it turned out to be €30 for 5 people) and the price of the wine (Mindy had assumed a price of €3-5 per bottle). The waiter responded that we had eaten the antipasto plates without complaint, and voices raised cacophonously around the table. I took over, calming the table, and informed the waiter politely that there was simply a misunderstanding about the anitpasto plates, that we had ordered based on the price he quoted, and that it came back being a euro more per person than the highest price. With a great show, he relented and said that we were taking the money from his own pocket, but that he would adjust the price. Next people started trying to split the check up, saying that they wanted to pay exact change and they didn’t want to wait which was frankly ridiculous as we all had €20 bills. I collected that together, Mindy being short (I need to remind her that she owes) and figured out close to exact change so we could leave. As the table scurried from the patio the waiter followed and came to me. He had thought we had left him shorted, but found when counting the money out that actually it was exact change.

Personally I was miserable while I (believe) that I hid it. There was no table charge, and while many Italians never tip I feel with as much discord we caused in what was previously a charming corner of happy diners that he might have been thanked. We left in our wake the stench of American tourists, proudly living up to all that is expected of us.

Here I will remind myself that I am privleged in having had the opportunity to travel and immerse myself in culture.

Then we picked up the guys who had just gotten gelato, and we all decide to wander (that sounded like a good idea to me, very unintrusive). Lucas needed a restroom, so Mindy yelled from the back of our wandering band of American gypsies that we should find a bar. Leading the gaggle I located a bar. The group crowded before the entrance standing somewhat uncertain and undecided and unaware while Lucas went in. I asked were we not finding a bar so we could share time together, and if so should we go in (or at least clear a path for other patrons)? The group gathered in the small bar and we signalled business for an otherwise empty inside. I ordered a gin & tonic. The waitress patiently waited while the group tried to make a collective decision on what they might order. Folks considered getting a beer, then Mindy suggested a bottle of house wine; she began considering the prices and then decided that they weren’t a great value and changed her mind now trying to find a mixed drinks and leaving others to fend for themselves. This all seemed an eternity to me.

Walking back to the Campo, the girls alone, we stood at a corner where each pointed in a different direction. I sighed and said that I was going to “go my own way” and walked off. Laurie stuttered in the middle of the intersection, “Angela, don’t leave us.” I felt remorse, but merrily (or so I hoped) waved as I walked off.

Minutes later I felt truly terrible. I knew Laurie, if not the others, realized that I was upset. I quickly returned to the room, and she joined me for a drink on the Campo. I confessed my anxiety arisen from the evening’s events, and with sweet liquor as my elixir, I let go.

I think I’m going to write in my book now.

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