Thursday, December 31, 2009

Coca Cola fridges and offensive bills 25/10/09

What were we greeted with upon our return from holidays but a coca cola fridge, with its red neon writing gleaming behind the counter and chrome finishing. This was not part of the original deal, I pointed out. Mio marito’s frind works for coca cola and I knew it was only a matter of time before he brought his multinational wheeler dealings into our restaurant. The deal was we would use coca cola bottles instead of cans and in return they would cover the costs of our black shirts with the Pachamana logo written on them, and of course a small coke emblem on the left hand side. But apparently the bosses had come to see our locale to gauge the potential coca cola exposure and had deemed the bar a perfect spot for their new mini-bar style fridge. But it upsets the symmetry of the white shelves and the neatness of the area behind the bar. Mio marito, strongly supported by the barman, think the bar area is still too bare. Nothing better than a coke fridge to fill the gap. The friend came in to take a photo of it, and I said when you’re done can you dismantle it again and take it away with you? He looked at mio marito and said yeah but that changes the deal with the t-shirts. Later on the barman joked that in the company of friends the Sicilian male will play the macho but that behind the scenes they all are only too aware it is the woman who decides. He is just your broom behind the door! he said - some Sicilian expression.

A blond girl and darkhaired girl sat all night at the bar fawning over il barman. They had two glasses of wine and later I noticed two more glasses that hadn’t been written down. They were funny girls, now and again I would catch them watching me or staring over provocatively. But I had given them not a moment’s attention, they seemed nice enough girls when they came in anyway. A restaurant owner at home had confided to me that the worst thing for your bar are pretty girls because the barman will be only too delighted to offer drinks on the house. So I was keeping an eye. So at the very end of the night, at 3am when I was about to go, the bar was cleared and just this pair were left so I sent over the bill thinking I would head home... The next thing, when a guy who manages another bar in town had just come in to say hi, il barman comes over and does this awful performance. Did you send over the scontrino he said? Why? I said I was about to head home and we were closing. It seemed obvious. But he pranced and puffed the chest out and clicked his cowboy boot heels together and said but you can’t do that! They are offended. One of them is my ex and we were chatting and it is very rude of you to send over the scontrino. I said I didn’t know it was your ex, I don’t know the girls and no offence was intended I am just closing up shop basically. But he went on and on, raising his voice higher and higher, puffing the chest out and contorting his face, and that whole river of words coming out that just confuses me. I simply don’t know where to begin to reply when I get that heated torrent of Sicilian diatribe. He continued, I know you did that because you have that Irish mentality and in Ireland you close bars at two and people leave and that is how you think. But you have to trust me, do you not trust me? He ranted. I said, have I ever said anything to you? (it’s true – I leave him to it, and he knew that was true). Most offensive was that he said altri. Hai persi altri due clienti (you’ve lost another two customers). The only way to stop the ranting was to say this is not the time nor the place. That whole show was for him and his ex and his pride. The Sicilian male ego, I could so do without it. The friend from the other bar disappeared and the waiter glanced over sympathetically. Il barman went back over to the girls and slabbered over them and I was left there on my own. The foreigner. The ridiculous foreigner. Altra was the word in my head as if he was saying I had already lost customers because of my foreign ways. I thought that was so mean. Even if I have offended the delicate Sicilian soul, it has never been intentional, and also, others have come back precisely because of the foreignness, something new for this town.

Anyway, to make matters worse, he then sidled up to mio marito to tell him, as soon as I went off to put chairs up. I came straight back over and he moved away. I was not going to have im snitching on me to my own husband. So in the end he came over, grabbed my face in his hands and planted two kisses on my cheeks. God, the Sicilianness of it. And in a voice loud enough for all to hear, for mio marito anyway, he said, ‘Sorry I said those things in front of people, I wasn’t aware they were there.’ I thought he could have handled it totally differently. He could have apologised to the two girlfriends for my appalling foreignness and mentioned it to me later.

It appears to be difficult to get anything right here.


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