Things I Don’t Miss about the US, #1-3
Around this time last year, I wrote a post about some of the little things I miss about the United States: coffee shops with Wi-Fi, getting anything done during the month of August, drivers who are capable of choosing just one lane on the highway. I love living in Italy about 95 percent of the time. The other 5 percent — when our house gas tank runs dry in the middle of a national truck strike, when the trash piles start to block traffic, when someone tells me “va bene” for the 100th time when all is NOT “va bene” — is a small price to pay for the privilege of living here.
On the other side of the coin, while there are many aspects of living in the States that I miss, there are also a few that I’m happy to be missing out on.
Sometimes a total disregard for safety is awesome.
1. The presidential election
Oh, calm down. I’m obviously going to vote in the November election (request for absentee ballot, sent: stop judging me) and I read the news, but two years of endless campaigning (read: baby kissing, finger pointing and mud slinging) makes me weary. And then a brilliant scientific mind like this guy comes along, and I’m especially grateful I don’t have access to 24-hour American news channels because I just might gouge out my eyes. Italy has inane news programs, of course, but I have the benefit of only understanding 40 to 50 percent (on a good day).
2. Check-pushing restaurants
“I’m just going to put this here for whenever you’re ready, no hurry…” That’s what a server says when she is indeed hoping you hurry up and pay your bill so she can turn the table and maximize the tips for her shift. I’m not saying this to blame servers for this system; they are vastly underpaid and overly dependent on tips to make a living, and I did the same thing when I was waiting tables. What bothers me is that the American obsession with speed and efficiency has made lingering over a good meal with friends damn near impossible. The last time I was home, I noticed a disturbing trend of servers delivering your check at the same time they deliver your food. BUT NO RUSH.
In Italy, we often have the opposite problem: we need to ask for the check several times before we get it, and no one is ever in any kind of rush. This can be annoying if we are running late or need to be somewhere at a certain time, but mostly, I love being able to sit, relax and enjoy a three-hour parade of food and wine and limoncello without anyone trying to push us out the door. Some things are sacred.
3. These pesky “safety” standards
Last month, Brian and I traveled to the Aeolian Islands in Sicily with our dear friends Jess and Peter, and on Stromboli, we climbed a volcano (see above). Like an active, liquid-hot-magma-spewing, no-joke volcano. It was a five-hour hike: one way was up a steep, rocky cliff face with no guardrails at dusk, and the other was more of a Hail Mary stumble down a slippery mountain of sand and large rocks in complete darkness. And in between, we sat and watched live volcanic activity erupting below us. And it was amazing. One of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. The entire hike, I couldn’t stop thinking, “There is no way in hell this would ever happen in the States. It’s way too unsafe. That idiot kid leaping from rock to rock in front of me has a 1 in 3 chance of survival.” The Italians, on the other hand, make you go with a guide, hand you a helmet and a headlamp and tell you to go nuts. Va bene.