Tis Returns to Italy! Day 56: The River of Strada San Sebastiano
My apartment, in the heart of the Old Town here in Bari, is on the ground level. My two big front doors open right onto the pedestrian street from my kitchen. As soon as I get dressed in the morning, I open the big doors and enjoy the show. There is always something going on in the lively streets of the Old Town. Homes tend to be very small, just what you need to cook, sleep and shower, so much of life is lived in the street.
At first, I was excited to see so much activity. In particular, I was surprised at how much time the residents spent mopping the street. I could not figure out why they were cleaning the street, or why they were doing it so frequently. Soon I discovered the reason for the flurry of cleaning.
Meeting the Neighbors
The second afternoon of my stay in Bari’s Old Town, the neighbor from across the street came over and knocked pretty forcefully on my open door. I welcomed her in my best Italian, asking how I could help. She asked to speak to the “Padrona” and not in an ‘if it’s convenient” kind of way. My command of the Italian language did not easily translate “padrona” but I inferred from the intensity of the request that it was someone in charge, clearly not me.
As she talked, she was gesturing towards a small river that was running down Strada San Sebastiano. I assumed this was the problem. To my surprise, I realized this was coming from my apartment. Now all the mopping made sense! In my excitement to explore the neighborhood, I had overlooked this small detail of my particular street.
The young man in charge of the apartment was on his way over on this busy Thursday evening in Strada San Sebastiano. My understanding was he was coming to look at the washer that was not working and to fix a light that was out. I warned him that there was an angry mob outside, hoping for a resolution to the river of sewage water that was flowing down their otherwise lovely, immaculately clean street. He responded, “I cannot fix the plumbing!!! I am only coming to change the light bulb!”.
I thought to myself, “Well you better work on your PR skills kid because the neighbors are waiting for you and there are not happy.”
Showdown in the Neighborhood
The poor guy arrived, and the neighbors surrounded him with rapid-fire questioning. My Italian skills do not allow translation at such a high rate of speech so I did not understand all that was being said. However, whatever he explained seemed to calm things for a moment. I assumed a plan was in place to stop the river.
He said he would let me know when the washing machine repair person would be stopping by who I assumed would be the solution to the problem. Later I got a generic email from the company that rented me the apartment informing me that no one could come to look at the washer until probably Monday.
What? I am living among an angry mob and you are thinking about sending someone Monday? I wrote back, explaining that I was certain Italy was not a third-world country. Therefore, they needed to call the emergency technician, pay him the rate he asks and get him over here to stop the river flowing down Strada San Sebastiano.
Help Arrives…On a Vespa!
Within an hour, the young guy was once again standing in my doorway, saying that he was working on something ASAP. Before I could ask what solution he was referring to, a guy on a Vespa stopped in front of the apartment. He hopped off the bike with a bag full of tools. Lifting the heavy black lid off of the source of the problem with a crowbar, he quickly removed all sorts of unpleasant debris. To confirm that the problem was resolved, I asked “Tutto bene?”, or “All is well?”. He assured me it was and hopped on his Vespa, leaving as quickly as he arrived.
The water stopped and a few hours later, the street had dried. Thankfully, peace had returned to Strada San Sebastiano. I set my mind to make every effort to get along with all of my lovely neighbors and enjoy being a part of this vibrant neighborhood
Ciao for now!