Coffee To Go

Roma, 16 marzo 2021

Dear R. ~

This morning I did something brutissimo, so bad, so ugly.  I left the house with coffee in a thermos.  The last time I did that was over two years ago before I left the States and moved to Rome. Here it’s a no-no.  Non si fa.  I hid it in my handbag in case I ran into the Countess who lives in the building on my way out.  I sipped from it furtively in my car, embarrassed to be seen drinking while driving.  Nobody does that here.  Eat in the car.  Nope.  And drink coffee on the go?  Major eye roll.  Never.  Why would you do that?  You eat when you eat.  You have coffee when you have coffee.  There is no sipping your coffee while driving, while working, while having a meeting, and these days, while zooming.  No.  There is also no brown bag lunching, reviewing spreadsheets while you scarf down food and then run off to get more things done.  No.  Here everything has a time and a place.  You are having coffee.  You are having lunch.  You are having conversation.  You are digesting.  You are pausing.  And when you go back to work, you will work.  Not that you can’t talk about work while having coffee or eating lunch, but why give yourself a stomach ache?  It’s bad for digestion.  If you absolutely had to leave the house without coffee well then you would just stop at your neighborhood café or bar for your coffee of course.  Just double park your car, leisurely walk into the bar, order your coffee, and take your time to drink it because that’s how it’s done, it’s a ritual.  You have to savor it even if you are in a rush, and anyway being in a rush is sort of relative isn’t it?  Maybe you chat with the barista and catch up with anyone else you happen to know in there, of course these days with Covid it’s not like it used to be, not that it’s stopping people from hanging out at the bar.  Currently Rome is designated a zona gialla under Covid safety measures which means that bars and restaurants are allowed to be open till 6 p.m.  I have seen plenty of packed bars with the ol’ I’m having a coffee so I can keep my mask lowered even though I’ve been here for over an hour just chatting away with my friends.  It’s not the norm, generally people have been respectful of the rules, but it is happening.  Anyway, back to the coffee ritual, maybe you make a phone call, then you pay for the coffee at the register and exchange niceties with the cashier, who is invariably the owner of the bar, make your way back to your car, and maybe rush out only if you have blocked someone else in and their horn is letting you know.  The you-are-blocking-my-car horn has a specific call.  It’s beep-beeeeeeep pause, beeeeeeeep- pause- beeeeeeep-pause- beeeeeeeeeeep-pause.  It’s all very civil, everyone knows the driver will come out soon enough and you’ll be on your way, though you are allowed to get annoyed and start beeping more vigorously after ten minutes if the driver isn’t back yet to move the car.  Said driver will usually saunter out of a bar, never an apology but neither aggressive, sometimes there’s a quick nod that says arrive, I’m on my way, and only after the ten minute mark is there any danger for encounters of the uncomfortable and loud kind, with words exchanged.  Only once have I seen police get involved.  Usually after the ten minute mark, especially if the driver is at fault, he will come out of the bar complaining, “hey I was only gone for TWO MINUTES, what’s the rush??”   So back to my thermos, because I still can’t double park in front of a coffee shop without feeling horribly guilty and still can’t pretend to not be in a rush, I avoided the whole situation today and smuggled my coffee out, American-style.  Do not tell the Italians I just did this. 

Wish you were here,


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