May 29, 2008

Sheet! Sheet!

Sheet!  Sheet!

Before we left for our trip to Country That's Kicking, people kept asking, "Do any of you speak Italian?" The answer was no. My father's grandfather spoke Italian, of course, but — as was the case with many immigrant families — the language did not get passed down to the grandchildren or great grandchildren. I've worked in an Italian restaurant so I do know the names of foods, which turned out to be helpful, and I know a few swear words, which was a bit less helpful. But I brought along a phrase book and figured that as long as I learned the polite words — please, thank you, hello, and goodbye — I'd get along just fine. My Italian ancestors may not have passed down the language, but the ability to talk with my hands came through the blood.

For simple things like ordering food or asking where the bathroom was, gestures worked just fine. Well, we were sometimes a little surprised by what food showed up at the table, but we just considered that part of the adventure.

Then there was the incident with the white sheet. See, I had spilled water on a bedsheet and decided to hang it out on the third-floor balcony outside our room to dry in the sun. Then I forgot about the sheet altogether, and when a wind came up, the sheet blew away, landing on a balcony below us, too far away to reach. (My father said, helpfully, "How many years have you been sailing? And you didn't tie it down?") Red-haired Sister was worried that we'd be charged for the sheet if I didn't explain to someone what had happened. So I went off to search for the dark-haired woman who seemed to be in charge of housekeeping. I found her vacuuming the hallway, and I tried to explain the sage of the blown-away sheet.

She did not, it turns out, speak much English. Our communication consisted of me saying "Sheet! Sheet!" and her repeating "Sheet! Sheet!" and both of us gesturing wildly with our hands.

So I led her up to the room, where I pantomimed the whole story. I showed her the little table where we'd been eating fresh bread and cheese and fruit and demonstrated how a bedsheet made a fine tablecloth. Then I made motions to show the way in which my water had spilled with a clumsy gesture, not my fault, of course. I led her out to the balcony, and showed her how I had hung the sheet out to dry. Then I pointed to the balcony below, where a white sheet lay crumpled on the ground, out of reach. I wasn't sure how much of the story she was following until she saw the sheet and started laughing. She was still laughing as she reassured me, with a few gestures, that she would take care of the sheet.

When we returned later that afternoon, she had left a new sheet folded on the couch. Satisfied that I had communicated well, I went down to the lobby with my laptop to check email (the wireless only worked from the tiny lobby on the first floor). As I was downloading photos and listening to two other hotel customers talking in Italian about some soccer game on the television, I saw in the other corner of the lobby, Housekeeping Woman talking to the suave Italian guy who was the manager. She was gesturing and laughing, and at one point I heard the words, "Sheet! Sheet!" She looked in my direction once, smiling. I didn't have to understand a word of Italian to know that she was re-telling the story.


Kyla said...

That is quite funny!

Anonymous said...

Funny! That's a strangely disorienting picture.

kathy a. said...

that is hilarious! i'm sure they appreciated having the mystery solved, even before someone found the sheet and started wondering what kind of wackos [in the room below] would leave a stray sheet out on the balcony all bunched up like that.

my grandmother was probably single-handedly the reason that no US hotel has hangers that can be stolen any more, and restaurants stopped using anything unusual in their table settings. aside from the tiny shampoos, i'm always afraid that anything left wrong with a hotel room will go on my permanent record -- although i don't know that my late grandmother ever got caught.

BrightBoy said...

Ha, ha, you're awesome.

kim wells said...

Hi Jo(e): You asked for a link to my new "public" blog:

I'm glad to see you still are stopping by the old digs. Now the new ones will probably be a lot less whiney. :)

Anonymous said...

Too funny! At least she had a good sense of humor about it! :)

Cathy said...

When I first looked at the picture of the sheet, I was looking at it from the perpective of the sheet being on a side wall in an odd sort of way. How different the perspective is when my brain puts it on the floor instead of the wall.

Great story. Made me smile.

Yankee, Transferred said...

I had the same reaction as Kathy. I thought somehow I was looking up at something that was stuck. Funny. I love the brain.

This is a great photo.

YourFireAnt said...

Jo(e), this is NOT how you fold a fitted sheet.


[still in Maritime Province]

Gawdess said...

that explains the picture!!!!!
I kept looking at it on flickr trying to figure it out.
funny story.

Anonymous said...

That is a great story. It sounds like a comedy routine. :)

Anonymous said...

love it :)

Julia said...

i spent some time deciphering the picture. But the story is indeed very funny.
your family, though, should be renamed into Fancy Travelers, needing that tablecloth. My Bread!Cheese! family wouldn't have waited for the sheet to make it to the table before attacking the supplies, methinks.