mercoledì 19 dicembre 2007

La Scala & Rinascente hell

If you suspect that some of the anecdotes I tell on my blog are made up, or in some way elaborated, I can assure you that this is not the case! It occured to me on Saturday, just when I was thinking "this is one for the blog!" that some of the situations I get myself into are so ludicrous that they must seem fake, or at least embellished in some way. Take this one, for example.
On Saturday afternoon, I went to La Scala for the first time. Despite living in Milan for two years, the opportunity simply hadn't presented itself, and given that my friend and I both have other halves who would rather walk across hot coals than sit through a three-hour opera or ballet, we decided to go together. It was a Christmas performance of Swan Lake. The dancers were a bit wobbly (that's a technical term you know) but the setting was - obviously - spectacular, and it was nice to do something a bit different. However, I still found that I couldn't get away from my increasing difficulty in tolerating other human beings. We were in a box of six people, two of whom - a mother and small daughter - arrived 20 minutes into the performance. Having made their grand entrance, little Anastasia (really!) decided she didn't want to be in the theatre, and spent much of the entire first act moaning "I want to go home" loudly. This is obviously fine - small children don't understand theatre etiquette - the problem was that the mother kept engaging her in high-volume conversation, even when she was sitting quietly. When not attempting to distract little Anastasia, the mother would be writing a text on her mobile, or - unbelievably - answering a call. She received a total of three text messages and two phone calls during the performance, and on no occasion did she think it might be a good idea to switch her phone off, or even put in on silent!
Following the ballet, I decided to suck it up and head for Milan's largest department store, Rinascente, to buy gifts for Luca's young nieces. I was fully prepared for the two-saturdays-to-christmas hell, and in fact it took 20 minutes of crowd-surfing up the escalators to the 6th floor to reach the toy department. Not being all that experienced in what might appeal to a 2 year-old child and 8 month-old baby, I grabbed an assistant, and having considered and rejected practically every item in the department, finally settled on a set of animals that fit together and make noise if you get it right for Carolina, and a plastic mushroom thing with different buttons for Maddalena. All I can say is, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Having waited 15 minutes in the queue to pay, I got to the front only to discover that the credit / debit card machines in the entire shop had stopped working, and so they were accepting cash only. This is a store where you can buy items of clothing that run into four figures - I don't know about other people but personally I don't carry that amount of lose change around in my pocket! I was 5 euros short so their suggestion was to find a cash point and come back later. Great! The largest department store in Milan, 2 weeks to Christmas, and they can only take cash! Since there was no one to take my frustration out on (the poor assistants were getting it in the neck as it was), I calmly headed for the lift. 50 people. So, I headed for the escalator. 150 people. Six long escalator rides later, I was out the door and heading for the nearest cashpoint. 200 million people!!! A mere THIRTY FIVE minutes later, I had my money and was back on my way to the store to purchase my gifts. Having done so, I headed for Luca's bar to proudly show him the fruits of my first solo expedition to buy presents for the girls. "Can I say something?" says his mum, as she looks over our shoulders. "Carolina already has that".
I haven't summoned up the strength to take it back and change it yet, but I will have to at some point before Saturday. Wish me luck!

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