WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU’RE WRONG
One early evening, I was circling in and around the small town of Stradella looking for free parking as I had an aerobics class to teach. As I was approaching a little intersection, I saw, to my left, a car that was pulling out of a free parking spot. “Sweet!”
So I quickly turned left and bee lined for the free spot. As soon as I turned left, I realized I was doing something wrong. How did I know this? Because three elderly ladies sitting on a bench got up in unison and started yelling and waving their hands at me. This Italian hand gesture is quite common: a raised (usually right) arm with the elbow bent at an obtuse angle, palm opened flat with fingers touching and the thumb sticking out. The upper body is also inclined toward the accused.
The elderly ladies were trying to tell me that I was going the wrong way on a one-way street. In reality, the only thing they did was scare me because I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. From their reaction, I thought I had run over a kitten!
You’d think that I would have sped out of there to avoid embarrassment, but I actually slowed down as I passed by them to show them that I was sorry using my Canadian, apologetic, hand gestures and facial expressions. Despite my apologetic efforts, they continued to be just as excited and angry.
Five whole seconds later (gives you an idea of how long the street is), I still got that parking spot.
When I got out of my car, I dared to look at the three elderly ladies thinking they were going to jump me and publicly scold me. Instead, they reassumed their positions on the bench and continued happily chatting. How do Italians do that?
WHAT WOULD AN ITALIAN DO?
When I got home, I told my husband about the angry ladies and the mistake that I made while driving. He asked me, “what did you do when they got angry?” I said, “I just said sorry and then parked.”
Then he gave me a lesson on how to act the next time I am in the wrong: “The next time that happens, you wave your arms and yell back at them!!”
Me: “What? Even if I’m wrong?”
Him: “Even if you’re wrong!”
I’ll admit that I don’t have it in me to yell back at a stranger when I know that I am in the wrong. I could easily do that with my husband, but not with a stranger.
Instead of using my husband’s advice, I just took it into consideration and started to take notice of random public confrontations. In 90% of the cases, even if someone is clearly in the wrong, they will yell back and find fault in the other person. It is remarkable to see!
I will never forget when I was waiting at the hairdresser’s and a lady started her car to pull out of a parking spot. She didn’t manage to pull out properly and consequently, slammed her car into the parked car in front of her. The owner of the parked car came out of a shop nearby and looked at the damage to his back bumper with an annoyed look on his face. Before he could say anything, the lady who slammed into his car jumped out, looked at the damage at her car and started yelling at him! I didn’t go outside to listen to what they were saying, but in Italy, you don’t need to hear what they are saying. It’s all in the body language. If someone hadn’t seen what had actually happened and arrived only to witness the confrontation, it almost looked as if the gentleman was in the wrong! Remarkable!