Karma in Bologna

We were in Bologna for a couple of days and as often happens in Italy our days settled into a routine of having one specific daily objective – whether it is a exhibition or a museum or simply an area to visit. The rest of the time is spent essentially wandering aimlessly and looking around. We pause at various points for a cup of coffee or a beer and, obviously, for food. This particular day we found a place with a decent selection of salami and cheese, and a reasonably priced house wine. I very often - well usually, get involved in conversation with some Italians on a nearby table. On this occasion, my Italian chat was limited to the staff as the people sitting closest to us were English. From overhearing their conversation which, frankly, was at a volume where it was impossible to ignore, we worked out they were pilots and we remained silent as they rambled on about 'buying a little bolthole in the sun'. I have to confess that we felt a little superior when they began eulogising about the 'charming unspoiled little bar' which they could clearly see 'had been run by the same family for generations'. We left, resisting the temptation to tell them that it was one of a chain of identical bars in Turin, Milan, Florence, Naples, and Rome.

Our next port of call was a bar on a street which was punctuated with brass star-shaped plaques in the pavement, very much like Hollywood Boulevard. The table we found available was next to Chet Baker's star and as he is one of my favourites this seemed entirely appropriate. Feeling as if this was all meant to be, we went to sit down, which required me to ask a woman at the next table to remove her crash helmet from one of the two chairs. Now despite the fact, I made the request politely and it was obvious that it should have been no inconvenience to her, she glared at me as if I'd strangled a kitten and stuffed it into her burger. Her partner smiled awkwardly at us and we took our seats. However to show her displeasure the woman did not put her crash helmet under the chair with her partner's but kept it awkwardly on her lap to show how much I had inconvenienced her. Lesley and I ordered some drinks, and sat chatting in the sunshine, watching the world go by and ignoring the waves of anger emanating from the absurdly affronted woman. Our second round of drinks was arriving, when the biker and his stroppy friend began to leave. She knew how to flounce and she made it very clear that I was clearly an uncivilised moron and probably a foreigner. At this point, we realised that because she'd been so deeply involved in the 'flounce' she'd left her bag behind. She was about 10 to 15 feet away when I stood and picked up the bag from the back of the chair and attracted her attention with a friendly 'Scusi, signora!'. She turned, with her scowl still firmly in place but rapidly realised that this particular foreigner had stopped her making a foolish and potentially expensive mistake. She took the bag gently from me, avoiding any eye contact and quietly said 'Grazie.' The dozen or so customers had clearly followed the action and I suspect appreciated the irony. However, I’m sure they didn’t enjoy the karma quite as much as we did.

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