Fair Warning: this is going to be a fully fledged rant. I have a bellyful of aggravation, indignation, and ulceration. If you believe that bella Italia would be a wonderful place to live, prepare to have that band-aid ripped right off the festering sore of reality. Or close your eyes and the page and just wait for the next post.
A vituperous purge of ranting won’t change a thing, but the dawning realization that disfunctionality is the status quo is going to eat me up from the inside out if I don’t do something with it. Perhaps, if I shout it for the whole universe to hear that I have seen, nay, lived behind the curtain and the bella figura is only skin deep, that beneath it is a self-important, self-deluding culture which will not think beyond its next meal nor its own front door, I may be able to breathe out the rancor and carry on. I must because it’s too present, too constant, too much.
Using electricity and indoor plumbing are two of the most notable experiences of the developed world. We take it for granted that these systems are functioning to the highest degree available from modern technology. My 40 years in the United States: all plugs fit into the outlets which are firmly grounded ~in both senses of the word~ into the wall. None of this is true here. Toilets can have bowls with water in them which allows for complete flushing, in an effective swirling vortex fashion, leaving the brush for periodic deep cleaning. Again, absolutely no resemblance to our daily experience.
Beginning with the 3 different fuse boxes for our little apartment, none of which stopped the Man being knocked half-way into next week by 220v when he foolishly touched the washing machine drum with one hand and the sink with the other. Grounding is for sissies, which makes me nervous whenever I attempt to pull a plug from its outlet ~after having identified the correct adaptor from the dozen or so possible combinations~ only to have the whole affair fall out of the wall, hanging by a nest of wires spliced with old brittle tape. This of course crumbles away a little bit more of the lousy wall material, which only adds insult to injury when the plug is to the vacuum. How can I ever be finished with the most basic task of housekeeping?
Moving on, has no European engineer ~I will grant here that it is not just the Italians who refuse to change; Austria certainly has the most egregious toilets on the Continent~ ever been to North America? How could it not have been a revelation, to find no toilet brush at hand… and realize there is no need? To see the water’s swirling action and not wonder at the ineffectiveness of the straight deluge at home? Even from an ecological perspective, perfectly functional low-flow designs are available on the market now. Why must I, and every other European, become so intimately acquainted with our excrement? There are excellent alternatives in this world economy. I would give 12 of my toes for Kohler or anyone else to import a decent toilet. I won’t even get into poorly designed flush push-buttons which are sharp and hurt my fingers or why a pipe must inelegantly snake out of the cheesy plastic tank and across the wall to its inlet.
So, 2 of the most basic activities of modern life have become odious in the extreme. I’m grateful for the availability of electricity, but in a self-proclaimed modern country, it shouldn’t try to kill me in my own home. And to a people for whom looking good is the most important thing in the world, who won’t stoop to pick up their dogs’ poop, how bella is always bending over a commode to brush and re-flush one’s own?
There, I do feel a bit less bilious. If you are Italian and offended by this, does the shoe fit? If not, don’t wear it. Of course there are considerate, modern, conscientious, hard-working Italians whom I like and respect very much, but in my experience they aren’t the ones running the country or making the future.