My First Weekend
I woke up the next morning looking forward to the three day weekend. The ship I was to be stationed on was not due back for that amount of time which meant that I was a free bird until it docked. In the service you take what ever time off you can get.
My wife (Lynn) liked to sleep in and I usually woke up at 5 AM, just because it was a day off did not seem to make much difference to my body clock. I was very considerate of Lynn, as I had been all of our marriage, just because I was awake no need to disturb her. I liked my morning time, it was some of the only time that I had to myself, it was precious to me. This morning was different though, I was in a foreign land now, I knew nothing of the town, I didn’t speak Italian, I will admit that I was a little intimidated. I quietly dressed and left the room. As with most Navy men, my father included, the first thing I wanted in the morning was a cigarette and a cup of coffee. The cigarette I had the coffee I needed. I went to the front desk and asked in what I considered to be good broken english for coffee. I was surprised when the girl behind the counter answered in almost perfect english that there was a coffee shop just around the corner. She added as I walked off “good luck” and laughed, I thought that was strange but needed coffee. When I got to the Coffee shop I knew why she wished me luck. The place was packed. I thought to myself “how bad can this be”… Famous last words
All This for a Cup of Coffee
I was a brash American, so I do like all of us do and marched up to the counter and hailed the first person behind the counter and asked for a coffee. First thing he does is say something in Italian that I don’t understand and then points to a receipt on the bar. Then he makes a grabbing motion. I found out quickly where the phase “Dumb American” came from. So I pulled out some money (I had changed some american money into Lira) and put some on the bar. He laughed and pointed to the door. I have to say that I was somewhat offended… I picked up my money and started to leave in a huff. Luckily there was a young person at the door. I found out later that most young people in Italy speak some english and the more educated ones speak it well… He stopped me and explained that you need to pay for your coffee at the door and take the receipt to the counter and get your coffee. He also spoke about the different types of coffee. Espresso, Cappachino, Cafe Americano, and the list went on. I just wanted a cup of coffee, jeez. He asked me if I liked strong coffee, HA, I was in the navy – you could cut the coffee I was used to drinking with a knife of course I liked strong coffee. He suggested that I order an Espresso, which was only 500 Lira (50 cents) went back to the bar with my receipt, haughtily threw it down and got this really tiny cup of what appeared to be black oil. At this point I didn’t want to appear any more stupid than I had already proven myself to be. I looked around and there were men adding packets of sugar to the small cups, so that is what I did, I seemed to have attracted the attention of a group of older men at one of the stand-up tables. They were whispering to each other and pointing in my direction. They didn’t need to whisper as I couldn’t have understood them if they were yelling, I guess they didn’t know that. So here I am looking down at this little cup of coffee, I am still not really sure that is what it is even though it smelled like coffee, and all of a sudden I just did like everyone else and downed it.
I remember the scorching heat as it ran down my throat, I remember the old men howling with laughter, I remember the serious rush of caffeine as the espresso hit me in a blinding flash of GOOD MORNING, but most of all I remember the hard time I had trying not to choke. From that moment on I loved the taste of espresso, I learned later that you should have a glass of water too, and when you drink the espresso you shoot the water behind. Funny thing is that when we found an apartment it wasn’t too far from the shop where I had my first espresso. I frequented that shop on a regular basis and became friends with most of the patrons that were there at 5 AM. Even the old men that couldn’t speak english became friends. We communicated with sign language and much broken english and italian. That morning I had several more shots and it was a great morning. I actually had the shakes when I left… too much caffeine.
It was still only about 6 AM but I decided that Lynn needed to experience this also. I started back to the hotel room but didn’t make it there. I ended up on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
More on that next time…..