I Even Managed Not to Fall on the Tracks

barry currin, stories of a world gone mad, beaverdamusa.comEuropeans don’t give us Americans credit for having much sense.

That’s the primary conclusion I drew from my and Kim’s recent trip to Italy and Spain. Visiting Grant in Spain was the reason for the trip. We decided to tack on some extra days in Italy beforehand as an early anniversary present to ourselves.

And much to the surprise of the Italians and the Spaniards, we made it back in one piece.

A few people we encountered in Italy spoke English fairly well. Many spoke only a little.

But whoever painted the warning signs up and down the entire country of Italy on everything imaginable was fluent in English, that’s for sure.

Apparently no one who speaks Italian or French or German or Punjabi ever fell off of a train platform. That must be why every 6 feet was a sign saying “Stay Behind Yellow Line,” plainly written in English and in no other language.

Nothing else was written in English. Why was that?

What is it about English-speaking people, I wondered, that makes the Italians think we are just itching to to get hit by a train?

As we got deeper into the trip, I realized that every sign urging us either to do or not do something was written first and foremost in English — and usually only in English.

“Turn off light when leaving toilet.”

“Do not enter.”

“Not responsible for items left in gondola.”

“No smoking.”

“Wet floor.”

It was like the preacher was talking to us and no one else in the congregation.

I’ve been all over the US, and nowhere in the whole country have I seen a warning sign printed in any other language more prominently than it was printed in English.

I would be willing to bet that the sign at the edge of the Grand Canyon says “Don’t fall in canyon” and not “Non rientrano nel canyon” for all of the Romans who might be vacationing here.

Things didn’t change much in Spain.

When I got to the rental car desk, the clerk I was blessed with spoke very little English — at least that’s what I thought in the beginning.

He couldn’t even understand that I had a reservation. He had to get a co-worker to interpret for him.

But something on his screen must have flagged me as American, because he suddenly and magically learned the language.

“This is a new car,” he said.

“Ok, great. Thanks.”

“It has only 13 kilometers. You are the first driver.”

I guess I nodded or smiled or something. I knew what he was getting at, but he wasn’t sure I did, so he paused a moment.

Then he looked me dead in the eye over the top of his glasses and said painfully slowly, “I suggest you get the insurance.”

I don’t know if this guy has been watching too many Dukes of Hazard reruns or the Daytona 500 or what, but he sure didn’t think I was a good risk for his precious new car with only 13 kilometers. 

And yes, I took the insurance.

Then I grabbed the keys, yelled “yee-haw” as loudly as I could, slid across the hood and jumped in the driver’s side window.

We’re Americans, after all. Apparently we have a reputation to uphold.

About Barry Currin

Barry tries to be funny and poignant, and he's usually satisfied when he succeeds with one or the other. (Being both is awesome. And sometimes that happens.) Email him: currin01@gmail.com

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