Hardware shop theatre

18 02 2009

Home of the teatro stabile di ferramenta

Home of the teatro stabile di ferramenta

Or, how buying a door latch in Italy becomes a public spectacle when you’re foreign

 

 

 

One of the things I’ve realized after a number of years in Italy is that I have no anonymity. Even when I lived in the big city I was the object of the curiosity of apartment porters, local shopkeepers, and neighbours. They may not have responded to my greetings but they knew (or tried to know) everything about me. Now that we live in a small village, I have acquired a certain amount of local celebrity.

The extent of my visibility became clear when I made my first visit to the nearby negozio di ferramenta (hardware shop). On orders to purchase a new door latch mechanism, I entered stage right on to the set of a comedy:

Foreign man enters holding an antiquated door latch.

Foreigner: I need a replacement for this.

Hardware man turns to crowd of onlookers sitting around the counter, all grateful for a bit of excitement.

Hardware man (in dialect): This is the man from Canada who lives on the next street over. Ha, ha, ha!

Pause.

Hardware man (In standard Italian, very slowly and loudly as if talking to an obtuse small child): Meester – Meester – Meeesteer! THIS – IS – A – VERY – OLD – DOOR – LATCH – YOU – NEED – A – NEW – ONE! [In English] Veeeree Olde!

Chorus: heee, heee, heee. It’s old. It’s old. Poor guy has an old door latch.

Foreigner: Yes, I know. That’s why I’m here.

Hardware man (in dialect): He must want a new one. Poor guy!

Chorus: heee, heee, heee. He wants a new one. Poor guy.

Hardware man (In standard Italian, very slowly and loudly as if talking to an obtuse small child): They – Don’t – Make – These – Anymore – Meester! You – need – a – different – one!

Chorus: heee, heee, heee.

Hardware man rummages about storeroom and comes up with one exactly the same but with a slightly different latch shape.

Hardware man (triumphantly): This – is – a – NEW – ONE! They- Don’t – have – these – in – Hollywood – Meester!

Chorus: heee, heee, heee.

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