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Amber Paulen


One very authentic Italian experience that should not be missed while in the country, after eating, is waiting in a line. It is while waiting in line that the many colors of many personalities, shine. Sometimes they shine so brightly that they make you forget you are waiting in line and that all the nonni and nonne have cut in front of you and the young woman has been edging in nearer and nearer to the counter though it is most certainly your turn next. Waiting in line is a reason to better my Italian, so I can either complain loudly, sympathize more cleverly with the person behind me, or just to overhear more precisely what it is the people are shouting about because it is the shouting, the fire-canon dramatics, that I was actually waiting for. Yesterday I waited in line at a cartolaria over near Largo Argentina. Since it is the holidays, lines are especially deceiving. But I have learned patience and how to stare brutally when someone tries to cut in front. (Just the other day, a woman who had pushed her way ahead of me to the counter, scoffed, when I was helped first. As if first-come-first-serve has been changed to first-first-first.) Here was a man that for his eccentricities was expedited ahead. He was buying a pen and didn’t want his box. The pen was forty-five euros and he kept asking over and over for a discount. The woman behind the counter’s eyes were wide and she was speechless. A forty-five euro pen isn’t so expensive but kind of ridiculous. The man himself was ridiculous with his dyed black hair and pasta belly dressed in a buttoned sweater and tie. He bought his pen and waved it as he walked out the door. Maybe worse than waiting in line, is serving those waiting.


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