Saturday, November 14, 2009

Gorilla Italian

The plumbers and electricians are all standing around waiting for me when I get there at 8:15 a.m. on a gray, bone-damp day. It seems someone forgot to trench for the water and power lines to the solar panels. Me.

This is where Gorilla Italian kicks in.

For some reason, speaking Italian is even harder than comprehending it for me, so I don’t yet have much facility beyond one or two word Dick & Jane utterances with some grunts and subliminally gleaned hand and arm motions thrown in, along with a few Pimsleur idioms (Che pecato! What a pity!). So the conversation goes something like this:

Jack: Buon giorno! [Good morning!]

Federigo the Plumber: [Rapid unintelligible string of syllables and trilling R’s out of which I am able to sift the words “tubi” and “traccia” (pipes and trench).]

Jack: Dove’ essatamento? [Where it is exactly?]

Simone the Electrician (with the tattooed gecko crawling up the back of his neck): [Even more unintelligible string from which I glean the word for inspection box I can only recognize (and now forget) because I’ve faced a dozen similar semi-automatic verbal firing squads this week.]

Jack: Dove essatamento? [Where it is exactly?]

Simone: [Rapid words and gesturing that lead me to believe I know where it should go.]

Jack: Chi? [Who?]

There is a moment of finger pointing (at me). I point back at them with my eyes knit in a question mark?

Both of them: “Buh!” [the universal Tuscan utterance, usually offered with a shrug, that can mean: Huh? Heck if I know? Whatever! Search me! Why should I care? And numerous other indecisive, unaccountable, unmotivated things.]

Jack (new tack): Che profundo? [How deep?]

Both, again (their words tripping over each other to be heard): Quaranta-anta centimetri-etri [forty-orty centimeters-eters].

I walk to the edge of the scarpata (slope) and point around randomly. Dove esca? I ask? [Where it is exit it?)

Both: Diritto! [Straight!]

Jack: OK! [OK!]

Simone: D'accordo! (OK!]

Jack: Va bene! [Goes it well!]

Federigo: Bravo! [Well done!]

And with this final operatic verbal pat on the back, I pick up my piccone [pick] and go to work, happy to have communicated so well, and looking forward to the day I graduate to 3 word sentences.