In the summer of 2006, I lived in a tiny apartment across the Arno River in the Stone Age. I had no cell phone and no internet. I even had the telephone company come to the apartment to tell me if I could have wifi installed. The tech who, by the looks of his Ape moonlighted as a carpenter, walked in unceremoniously, gave the place a once over with a bored, yet discerning, eye and said simply “no”. No explanation was given, but least he waved goodbye.
So, I didn’t know that Italy was even playing in the World Cup until late one night when I heard screams of “vincere” coming from the streets and saw kids roaring around on Vespa flying the tricolore while torn between beating random trash pails and hugging random street signs. Victory was sweet. After a rough day of dissertation research, I assumed WWIII had started, rolled over smirking that Italy was going to get it right this time, and went back to sleep.
Fast forward to the Paleolithic Age. I went to the library early this morning. The day was as gray as if it were night, and freezing cold, so I assumed that was why the library was so deserted. Eventually, they filed in, looking like the survivors of a zombie movie. By this point, I had opened Twitter to get to the bottom of this national day of mourning. Apparently, Italy’s national football team had lost the game that would have qualified them for the World Cup. And they lost to the Swedes. Oh, dear. Twitter was a sea of battlefield images of Italian soccer players lying on the turf, and weeping for their mothers. No wonder the sky couldn’t be blue over Italy today; the Azzuri had fallen.
Overcome by a bit of sadness myself, and cursing recent purchases made at IKEA, I wandered through the many doorways of the consolation rooms on the top floor of the library and worked my way down the grand gray staircase to the basement to pay a visit to the trusty coffee vending machine. My inner germaphobe avoided actually drinking out of this machine at all costs. I had convinced myself that the smell of coffee was enough, so I would stand there and drank endless amounts of sad fizzy water while watching a stream of Italian researchers drink shots of espresso from this machine and live. It was like watching herds of animals visiting an oasis. The oasis was a strangely enormous machine that had more wires and tubes coming out the back of it than Willy Wonka’s factory.
Approaching the vending machine, I saw a crowd had gathered. At first, it seemed to be the standard flying arms of the usual coffee break crowd, but then I realized that no one was actually drinking coffee. Instead they had formed a semi-circle around this machine as if they were performing a citizen’s arrest. A tiny old woman in an oversized old wool coat, had taken the position of authority in this Animal Farm. Apparently, it was she who had inserted a 2-euro coin, the mother of all euro coins, made her selection, and NOTHING. To say that she was annoyed, doesn’t begin to cover it. While most of the crowd was desperately trying to bait each other to enter more money and to try again, someone had pulled out a cell phone and started calling all of the service numbers on the vending machine in turn demanding justice each time someone picked up. He was told that a technician would be over in 10 minutes. With nothing else to do, he sat on the phone for 10 minutes explaining to the dispatcher how the old machine, probably installed by Mussolini, always worked, and it must be the silly new computer screen machine that no one liked anyway. It’s not a surprise that 10 minutes came and went with no cavalry. I’m sure the technician knew he would be chased out of the library by a crowd wielding tiny coffee spoons.
The crowd had accepted defeat, again. They walked off, sad and sleepy, to various sections of the library leaving only the now deflated old woman whose wool coat looked even bigger. I shook my head, sipped my sad water, and marched up the three flights of stairs back to my desk. As if the World Cup was not enough, you had to go and take away their coffee too? When it rains in Florence, it pours.