My Italian class was cranky tonight. Something shitty had happened in everyone's day. One girl had bought a shit iPod Nano and couldn't get it serviced, another had a lousy time at work, another car trouble, my gas had been cut off; crankiness all around the table. My teacher, I think in deference, was really funny. She's always funny, but tonight she didn't stop. We were doing this one exercise with different forms of the past. I explained we had to use the pretorate in one question because "So and So had to pull the handbrake and then put her seat back; these two actions need to be consecutive, not simultaneous."
"Si, brava." Pause, smile. "Of course, if it was me, I could pull the brake, put the seat back, talk on my mobile, yell out the window, smoke a cigarette and park at the same time."
And it's true. She could. Italians are masters of the multitask. Watch them drive. Watch them have a discussion not just with the mouth, but the whole body and nearby objects too. Watch them in the kitchen! They can sing an opera air, drain the pasta, stir the sauce, flip the cutlets, and hug their kids at the same time. People in my family are hardly ever doing just one thing. Me neither; can't help but feel I'm wasting my time. Something needs to be happening while something else is happening; we have to appreciate the wonder of this life as much as we can at once.
Ah, crackerjack ethnic theories. Are there any other kind? But have you got a better explanation for the beauty and intricacies of the operatic form? The ability of characters in mob movies or Quentin Tarantino films to make us feel four emotions at once? The functioning of the traffic grid system in Naples despite the utter over congested chaos on the lawless streets? The tangled webs of marital infidelity? The Renaissance, people - as in, "he's a Renaissance man because he's good at EVERYTHING"?
I have an ex in Italy right now talking up how annoying Italians can be, and I know where he's coming from. I lived there, I have a huge Italian family, I'm half and I annoy myself daily. What's more, I had an Italian-Australian boyfriend who I met while we were both living in Italy - that very same ex - who threw me some grief. So he whines but he knows the score, just like I and everyone else who cusses themselves hoarse over Italians and but can't stay away from them do. These complaints will pass - that country is just too wonderful. It can carry Berlusconi, insane politics, lethal traffic, hostile bureaucracy, seismic activity, brain fever-inducing romantic dramas, endemic petty and organised crime, and those bloody awful game shows. We still shut our eyes and think about it.