Rome V: The Post Wherein I Discuss How They Wash The Whales at SeaWorld, and Also Other Stuff

Micah Osler, copy editor

Things I Miss about Minnesota:

-Central A/C – Oh, how terribly I miss thee, central air conditioning! You transform every place, from the dingiest basement to the most extravagant palace, into a veritable fantasyland of chilliness; with naught but coolant fluid and electricity, you weave joy from the air itself. The oscillating fans here are pale imitations of your wondrous works, o bringer of true happiness – that they are used to cool rooms off is an insult to room-cooling-off technology, of which you are the undisputed Lord and Master. Once I return to your sweet, sweet embrace, may your frigid recirculated breath e’er blow across my grateful face.

-Communicating with people – When I came to Italy, I assumed that because I knew a little Spanish, I could get along fairly well – maybe not well enough to engage someone in conversation, say, but enough to order food or apologize for stepping on someone’s toe. Oh, how wrong I was. Here’s how an average conversation between me and an Italian person goes:

Me: [in Spanish] I would like three tomatoes, please.

Italian person: [incomprehensible deluge of Italian bordering on a soliloquy]

Me: [stares blankly for five seconds] I would like three tomatoes, please?

Italian person: [repeats soliloquy, except with more hand motions and an annoyed voice]

I think I’ve figured out the problem: by speaking a little Spanish, I give the citizens of Rome false hope that I can speak Italian. I can’t speak Italian. At all. I can say “please”, but that’s about the extent of it. The look of disappointment on the face of the person I’m speaking to when they realize I can’t speak Italian is devastating. It’s like I was selling them an incredibly cute puppy and they just remembered that their son is allergic. It’s humiliating

To correct for this, I’m considering adopting an alternate persona for talking to Italians: the slow-witted Texan who knows no Italian and whose grip on English is, frankly, a little shaky. That way, I don’t create any false expectations at all, and so there’s nothing to be disappointed by as, in a Southern drawl, I shout “I. WOULD. LIKE. SOME. PIZZA.” in the ear of my poor beleaguered waiter.

-TV – Boy, this makes me seem pathetic, doesn’t it?

Yes. Yes it does.

Let’s move on.

-The food, sort of – Considering how great Italian food is reputed to be, this seems like an idiotic thing to be homesick for. However, Roman cuisine isn’t – nor has it ever been – one of Italy’s more famous or highly regarded cuisines. Its focus is squarely on seafood (which I’m not a big fan of) and organ meat (which I’m really not a big fan of). The problem’s compounded by the fact that every restaurant in town, it seems, serves the exact same menu. The amount of ravioli I have consumed in the last week could probably kill a weaker man.

To measure restaurants, my family uses what we call the Broder’s Standard – whether somewhere serves food that’s as good or better than that at Broder’s. So far, only two restaurants have met the Standard, which, for being in Italy, is sorta disappointing.

Things I Don’t Miss About Minnesota:

-The food, sort of – Still, finding two places better than Broder’s is pretty great.

­-The showers – I’m not the kind of person who relishes showering as a relaxing stress-relieving ritual. Honestly, my ideal shower would be as much like an industrial dishwasher as possible – quick, effective, and with cool whooshing noises throughout. The shower at my family’s apartment is pretty close to that.

Our apartment has three showers, but I’m the only one who uses the downstairs one. My brother described it as a very uncomfortable wind tunnel, and my dad claimed it was “made for elves”. Essentially, it’s a tiny shower stall with the most powerful showerhead you’ll ever see. I think it was originally part of a power washer, or maybe one of those things they use to clean the whales at SeaWorld. In any case, the shower is absurdly hot and makes cool whooshing noises to spare. It’s approximately what I imagine standing on your head on top of Old Faithful must be like. And that’s just fine by me.

-The fashion – Okay, that’s a little misleading. As anyone who’s ever seen me will attest, I pay about as much attention to my clothing as I do to Canadian Football League draft rumors*. Romans seem to make what they wear part of their very souls. Apparently, though, for a large number of Romans, their souls demand that they wear ill-fitting Polo shirts, which I do (almost by accident) anyway. So there’s that.

Also, my many dumb, pointless, and downright offensive t-shirts come off as being ironic here, which seems like it’s the “hip” thing to be nowadays!

-The fountains – Every forty yards or so around Rome, there’s a public drinking fountain. It looks like a fire hydrant, but instead of places to attach a hose, it’s just got a long spout coming out, from which pours a stream of water. They date from the Roman empire and get their water from aqueducts, and the Romans were known for their undying love affair with lead pipes, so I worry a little bit about drinking from them, but the water’s cold and (relatively) clean, and it’s unbelievably hot here.

Also, it’s fascinating to see an artifact still in use, with water still—

Okay, I’ll be honest. I like these fountains because they make it easy to spray my brothers with water. It cools them off (sort of), it entertains those in the vicinity, myself included, and it promotes cleanliness/Micah avoidance. Is that so wrong?


*Side note: when I was waiting around in the Toronto airport, I found a place that had public iPads. One of the top apps was “TSN”, and its logo looked sort of like ESPN’s. Curious, I clicked on it. And lo, I did spend the next twenty minutes giggling quietly to myself at the expense of the Canadian Football League.