We were driving through a neighboring town on our way to buy a new refrigerator, . It was a glorious day. Blue sky, the sun was shining down on us.
“Jack that light is red.”
“I can’t see the light. The sun…”
“You just went through that red light.”
“Maybe it doesn’t work – those cars stopped too.”
“They stopped so they wouldn’t broadside us. Shit.”
We headed down the street when at the next intersection who should appear but un carabiniere – policeman – holding up a paletta, the very small yet very scary circle on a stick that means pull over or we shoot. They do carry guns. Sometimes they carry very big automatic guns.
Damn, we went through a stop light and got caught. My stomach dropped to my toes. Jack sat up straighter and assumed his remembered State Police posture. I rolled down my window and smiled – cripes I am seventy-two years old, flirting ain’t gonna work – maybe dimwitted old lady?
“Buon Giorno,” I say with a smile.
Jack followed my lead, “Buon Giorno.”
The police officer does not crack a smile, “Patente e libretto.”
I open the glove box and tons of scontrini – reciepts – fall out. I find not one but two plastic folders holding documents. I drop the blue one. I feel the police officer staring at me. I open the black folder but haven’t a clue what I am looking for. What is il libretto – is that the registration? He touches my hand – I freeze. He points. I give him the grey thing he points at. It must be il libretto.
The carabinieri always seem to work in twos. The rear of the police car was open and a computer appeared. The second officer grabbed il libretto, which when I read it later was the registration, and started typing away. Rats, I think there goes another ticket to the car. The car that is in my name driven by Jack who couldn’t see the freakin’ red light.
By now I have the insurance and our international drivers licenses ready for him.
“I documenti per favore.”
I try to give him the international drivers licenses – he pushes them aside. He doesn’t care about the insurance either.
“I vostri passaporti!” He says a bit severely.
We are so screwed. Here we go on a slow boat back to the United States. Or worse, the computer-generated phone hell of the American Consulate. I realize he needs to know we are Italian citizens and live in Pontelandolfo half the year. The problem is I need to get out of the car. All those car stops we have seen on the USA news demonstrate how dangerous it is to get out of the car. But my purse is on the back seat. What to do? My grandmother leaps into my body and suddenly my Italian improved two hundred percent.
“Siamo cittadini italiani. Residenza a Pontelandolfo. Potrei uscire dalla macchina. La mia borsa è sul sedile dietro.” I get out of the car, look directly into his handsome brown eyes and wish I was twenty-five. Then I go to the back seat and get my purse. Opening my wallet to get my residence card demonstrates that I happen to have a wee bit of cash too. I quickly take out my carta d’identità and gesture to Jack to take out his. While Jack arches up in the seat to get his wallet, I say. “Viviamo a Pontelandolfo sei mesi all’ anno e in New Jersey altri sei mesi.”
“I speak a little inglese. Where in New Jersey.”
“Tu parli bene l’inglese,” I say. “Siamo a Ewing vicino Philadelphia.”
He nods. I smile. He speaks English about as well as I speak Italian but hey compliments go a long way. He takes our identification cards back to the computer. Somehow, I don’t feel as frightened. Jack is still staring straight ahead.
He comes back and doesn’t look happy. “To drive in Italy avete bisogno della patente internazionale.”
He throws Jack’s New Jersey license back at him. What the #@%&!, I think. Why did Jack give him his license – all he wanted was his residence card. I leap into my “Ms Fixit” role.
“Mi scusi signore, abbiamo le patenti internazionali. Sono queste.” I hand him the same two grey international drivers licenses that I tried to give him earlier. We get them every year from Tripple A and have never shown them to anyone in ten years. Are these acceptable or do we end up in the cop car? He doesn’t even open them – just hands them back and goes back to the computer. I get back in the car. I am planning to go into my 1960’s dead weight protest mode. If they want to arrest us it will take a crane to pull me out of the car.
He slowly walks back. I slowly slump lower into the car. Jack sits up even taller. The policeman looks at me and pauses. I cringe.
“Buon fine settimana segnori,” he says with a smile.
I smile. He turns and walks away. Jack starts the car. I wave at the policemen. Thank you we will have a good weekend. But first, lets go buy that refrigerator.
It is not too early to start planning your 2022 trip to Pontelandolfo! We are organizing, cooking, writer’s retreats and farm to table weeklong adventures. Check out Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo!