It seems I’ll never become talented, famous or rich, but someday, somehow, I’m going to become suave. It will be an uphill battle. I’ll have to give up unsuave things like loud cussing and indoor spitting, but it will be worth the effort to have people point at me as I stroll down the avenue, and exclaim, “Did you ever see anyone suaver than him?”
Suavedom is really just an attitude that enables one to fit in and yet, stand out. We unsuave guys don’t stand out. We stick out. Once on a trip to Italy I stuck out like the proverbial sore thumb. As I stepped out of the 747 at the Rome airport I could sense the entire nation bracing for a difficult two weeks. I was about to leave a trail of raised eyebrows and muttered exclamations up and down the Italian boot.
Most people are realistic enough and kind enough to tolerate the millions who will never be suave. But we brave suave trainees, the daring ones who attempt the transition must suffer the slings and arrows of outraged head waiters, hotel clerks and fussy head housekeepers.
I had no idea my Italian was so terribly inaccurate. The people in my tour group said it had a certain ring of authenticity with my arm waving and all. I have since been able to explain some of the painful results of my incompetence as a linguist.
There was the incident in our hotel dining room where I was trying to ingratiate myself with the maitre d’ to get special treatment for my party. To my friends it must have sounded like I was having a friendly chat with Saverio, but after rechecking my “Italian for Tourists” book later, I realized I’d actually been saying , “Good newspaper, Saverio. Please see that my friends get good serpents.” And smiling Saverio was replying, “Sir, you are standing on my foot.” Late the next day a waiter scolded us for bringing sandwiches into the dining room. We had to. We were still unserved and we were starving.
Next, I tried booking my party’s train trip to Venice. The station was a beehive of activity during the commuter rush. I managed to combine my lack of suavity with my poor command of the Italian language and currency plus my abysmal ignorance of their railway system. Things moved less than swiftly.
In just an hour I spent what was probably a small fortune and had six unintelligible tickets. A well-dressed (certainly suave) Italian gentleman offered his assistance. “These tickets,” he said, “are for the special luxury express train to Venice.”
“Bene!” I said. “Just what I wanted!”
“Not so bene,”he replied. “It left ten minutes ago.”
In the next half hour the ticket sellers and I exchanged about five pounds of paper. At one dangerous point we were booked first class on the boat to Sardinia. But, at last, suavely happy and with tickets in hand I hustled my group off to the right platform while I found a porter for the luggage.
The porter and I arrived just in time. Not in time for me to board since the train was pulling out, but I was able to wave to my friends who looked bewildered, leaving without their luggage. “Enjoy Venice,” I called, “Arrivederci!”
The porter tugged at my sleeve. “Scusa signore. No Venezia. Your amicos’ treno goes to Vienna.”
“Oh well,” I called, waving suavely, “Auf wiedershen!”