Wednesday, August 02, 2006

MACERATA: Patience (and a nice hat) pays off

AFTER WALKING AROUND the university buildings, through crowds of people and down endless streets full of stands selling clothing, jewelry, shoes, bags, pictures and souvenirs, I am hungry.

I see a large fruit stand at the end of a street and decide to get an apple.

Never have I witnessed such a chaotic event.

I watch people shouting orders at the fruit stand employees who hurriedly walk to and from the different wooden crates of fruit. With their black fingernails caked with dirt, they grab at various fruits and plop them into bags. The bags are thrown onto a scale and coins are slammed into a small metal box.

Customers yell for firmer apples, point out bruised peaches, test grapes for seeds, ask for more and bargain to pay less.

I figure that I will get noticed by standing in front of the stand, staring down the various fruit stand employees.

No one looks at me.

Berit and Annie go off to play with a homeless man’s puppies. George wanders off to shoot pictures. Caitlyn joins me on my quest to get recognized. Only after the other customers have left does the woman look at me with one of the most pissed off expressions I have ever seen.

I do my usual pointing, combined with a half mumbled attempt at saying apple, “mele,” and then, “uno, uhhh.”

I step forward, shift back, smile.

I use this tactic often and it usually translates roughly as, “I am a dumb American and I want one apple, please.”

Of course she doesn’t understand. Apparently no one comes to the stand to buy just one single piece of fruit.

People usually stock up on market day, leaving with pounds and pounds of fruit to last the following weeks, I guess. Finally after I do my routine a couple more times and Caitlyn points to a nectarine, the fruit stand woman gives us each our fruit, free of charge.

She sighs and basically shoos us away, annoyed that she even took a minute to look at us.

I walk away trying to figure out why she gave us the freebees. I figure she felt bad for our half hour wait, she wanted us to leave as quickly as possible or she pitied the hats we had bought in town and wore so proudly (despite their obvious lack of style).

- Philly Petronis


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