I’ve finally started being my regular ol’ social self, initiating conversations, making people laugh, and generally just being bad-ass me. And I’m learning more and more Italian, though I’m learning just enough to get people thinking that I know more than I really do, thus resulting in some truly humorous moments when ignorance exceeds knowledge. I know about as much as an 18 month old now. Onto the observations!

Observation #1: Italian drivers are utterly insane.
Maybe not all Italian drivers. That’s a gross generalization, the kind I typically loathe. After all, I haven’t been to every place in Italy, and although I’ve been here 3 days, I don’t know how Italians think (that was just for you, SouthernCanadian). But here in Monza, the drivers obviously learned to drive by playing Gran Turismo on the Playstation and watching “The French Connection” on an endless loop. OK, for those of you who haven’t seen that classic film, think of the car chase scene in “The Bourne Identity”, and you’ll get the picture. Hollywood stuntmen would shit their pants riding around here. I’ve been in 5 taxis so far, and in each case I wished there were either 2 seatbelts or a 5 point harness in the backseat. In fact, on the way from the airport Sunday, I made the mistake of riding in the front seat of the Mercedes-Benz, with full visibility of the chaos around me. Never again. The drivers here just…go. They don’t look; they don’t care. If they want to change lanes, they change lanes. Period. I’m not even sure if Italian cars have turn signals, or if spikes just extend from the wheel wells to encourage cooperation for that driver’s desire to merge. One driver I had pulled out in front of a moving bus, and had the audacity to look at the bus like it just stole his last meatball. I learned that the benefit of riding in the back seat is that the headrest of the front seat blocks your view of the road. The drivers are oblivious to pedestrians, bikes, scooters, other cars, buildings, birds, buses, curbs, and anything else one might encounter driving. Entering the roundabouts here is akin to entering the Mad Max Thunderdome. In my mind, I can hear “2 go in, 1 comes out! 2 go in, 1 comes out!” every time my current driver hits that circle at full speed. I briefly considered renting a car here, but I’d have a damn nervous breakdown after just 10 minutes of travel time. I’ll leave it to the experts.

Observation #2: When in Rome…
Okay so no, I’m not in Rome, but you know the expression. In this case, it has to do with cuisine. So far, I’ve eaten very well here, which is to be expected in a place known for the quality of its food. In the cafeteria at work, I’ve had some of the best pasta dishes I’ve ever put in my mouth, and the people that work here say that the food sucks in comparison to other establishments. I’m not sure if I could handle “good” Italian food. My stomach might stage a coup and decide to secede from the rest of my body in order to live the life of a leftist rebel in Milan. Despite the pleasure I’m deriving from the food, there are things here that one must be aware of when ordering a dish. For example, you have to specify that you want water “without gas” or “natural” when you don’t want sparkling water. If you want regular American coffee, do not ask for “a coffee”. You’ll get brown industrial paint thinner that has enough caffeine to make a Starbucks junkie put the cup down and say “What the hell’s IN this?” Ask for a “café Americano”, and you’ll get something that more closely approximates the brew you like to drink at home. And when you’re ordering a steak, for God’s sake specify how you like it prepared. In the States, the wait staff will ask you how you want it cooked when you order. No so in Italy. Last night I went out to a restaurant and ordered a steak. I forgot to specify because the waiter spoke zero English, and I was fumbling through the little Italian I knew just to try to get some food to my table. I kept saying “Che significa?” (What is this?) so much that I knew the guy was getting a little frustrated, so when he finally said “bistecca” (steak), I ordered it, ‘cause I knew that word. In the restaurants here, if you do not tell them how to cook your steak, they will basically bring a live cow to your table along with a knife and fork. This steak was so rare, it was valuable. I think all they did was hold the steak in the air and run a lighter back and forth under it once or twice, just to make it warm. I prefer my meat well-done, so when I got this piece of meat that was Hello Kitty pink, I balked at first. Hell, the damn thing was still mooing! But I decided to close my eyes, cut it, and eat it. It wasn’t half bad. I would’ve ordered dessert, but I figured I’d just go howl at the moon instead.

I talked to the bidet. It’s not so bad. He’s just trying to do his job. I’m basically at the “Try them, try them and you may” stage of the “Green Eggs and Ham” Dr. Seuss book. Stay posted.