Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Ciao Bella!

The one thing I absolutely love about Brussels is that I never know what is going to happen to me next, which, coincidentally, is also what terrifies me most.

Walking home from the hair salon, in a beige fog, I was yanked back to reality in front of the supermarche by someone grabbing my arm. Thoroughly convinced that I was about to be robbed, I tightened my grip on my purse and prepared to scream. The scream died in my throat when I looked down to see who was doing the grabbing.

It was this little old lady, whose head hit me at about my elbow. Harmless, one would think. Instead, the voice of experience had me saying to myself, sweet Jesus, not again. If you have been reading my blog, you know that I have had some "experiences" with old ladies in Brussels (see, Maam that Hurts and The Bathroom Attendant). Quite frankly, they terrify me.

She took my hand and started handing me her shopping bags. At first, I thought she was trying to give me her toilet paper and her bottle of bleach. I politely declined. She kept pushing the bags at me. Since she obviously wasn't giving me her groceries, I then thought that she may be looking for her keys and in need of a free hand. So, I just stood there holding her bags.

The lady kept saying something to me, to which I replied, "je ne se parle pas francais." My complete and utter lack of knowledge of the French language did nothing to dissuade this woman. She kept on talking, and, more importantly, refused to let go of my hand. I figured it was some sort of collateral on her part. I had her groceries, she had my hand.

The little old lady shuffled me to the curb. At that point, I felt so stupid. It was then that I realized that she wanted help stepping off the curb and into the street. I took my right arm, the one with the shopping bags, and cupped the lady's elbow to help her off the curb. The lady still had my left hand in hers. Once we had cleared the curb, I tried to hand back the bags of groceries. Instead of taking them from me, she pulled on my left hand.

This particular little old lady was quite attached to me and, by that, I mean she had a vise-grip on my hand. She was not letting me go anytime soon. She shuffled me across the street. I then tried in my very best Spench, "je habite over there", pointing to my apartment, which was now behind us and across the street. She started pounding her chest and saying, "Italiana, Italiana." I totally got it that she wanted me to speak Italian, but, unless she had a bottle of red wine in her bag, my Italian was not going to help the communication process.

Resigned to having been abducted, I took comfort in the fact that she couldn't be taking me that far. I knew that, eventually, she would get to where she was going and want her groceries back. So, I walked and she shuffled without a word passing between us. After about 10 minutes, I asked "ou?" She just pointed ahead. We kept on going.

We finally arrived at the door to an apartment complex, where she let go of my hand and grabbed her groceries. "Grazie mil," she said to me. I replied to her in the only Italian that I thought might be appropriate under the circumstances, "Ciao, Bella," which earned me a huge toothless laugh.

© 2006 by Cindy Lane. All rights reserved.


Blogger Manic said...

Okay, thanks for the tip. When I see an old lady, start running. If she grabs your hand, get lotion out of her grovery bag, put it on your hand and try to get it loose. If all of that doesn't work, just shuffle along with her and say 'Bye Beautiful' in language of the person. Wow, your blog comes in handy.

9:38 PM  
Blogger Cindy Lane said...

No, Manic, you run. If you see a little old lady, just run fast and hard!

4:28 PM  

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