Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Venice Moment

While taking the grand tour of Venice on the vaporetto Nr.1, a family from Berlin occupies the prime outside viewing seats on the boat’s bow. Besides taking up more than one seat per person with their massive behinds, they store their outsized luggage on the remaining empty seats. In their excitement and enthusiasm, they report loudly on everything they observe. “Die Rialto Bridge. Der Canale Grande. Wie schön!” The family feverously videotapes and photographs the sites. “Almost as nice as our Wannsee,” the father says. “For sure,” his wife answers. An elderly Italian lady, desperate for a place to sit, complains to the sprawled out Germans about their quest for Lebensraum. The tourists shrug their shoulders and point to their luggage. “No place to put,” the father says. He opens his backpack, takes out a package of German chocolate, unwraps it, and offers it to his wife and children. The elderly lady tries again: “Please, put the suitcases inside the boat. I want to sit down.” The Germans ignore her. They enjoy their chocolate and the sights of the Fondaco dei Tedeschi. The mother studies her Polyglott Venedig guide book. She lectures the rest of the family about the sights. “This is the former German Handelshof, today the main post office. “ The father nods approvingly. The elderly lady comes back with a handsome official in a light blue short sleeve shirt and navy pants. He’s obviously in charge of this vaporetto. “You must put suitcase to special place, inside boat," he says in broken English. The Germans don’t move. They talk among themselves. The father asks the older daughter to translate. “We don’t trust people. People steal our suitcases.” she says. The Germans keep their eyes on the palazzi in front of them. The father finishes the rest of the chocolate. The mother turns to the father. “We can’t leave our suitcases inside and sit outside. I don’t trust the Italians. They’ll steal our suitcases on our first day.” The daughter films a gondolieri. “He’s so cute,” she says. The handsome man in charge of the vaporetto comes back and forces the Germans to put their suitcases on their laps. The Germans are not happy. They can hardly see anything. They look ridiculous, extremely uncomfortable, stuffed into their narrow seats with their massive suitcases on their laps. The elderly lady sits down triumphantly. She puts on a pair of oversized Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses and turns to face the Germans. In flawless English with a slight Chicagoan accent, she says: “Tourists have many rights in Venice, but they don’t have all the rights.”

P.S. I observed this confrontation during my stay in Venice where taught creative writing ( see