Someone stole my shopping today. Two courgettes, pine nuts, walnuts and a packet of pasta. I was only in the Post Office for 10 minutes - which is a miracle and in itself worthy of an entire paragraph really. In my excitement at seeing there was only one other person there, I shot inside faster than you can say 'don't worry, I have my own pen', stupidly leaving my shopping in my bicycle basket outside. I suppose I should be grateful that they didn't cut the lock and take my bike too (wouldn't be the first time. Or the second).
The real story is that today, while some scallywag was sizing up my veg, I made the Post Office lady laugh. She actually chuckled at a joke I made. Of course, she doesn't realise that she is my arch-nemesis and that in my head the PO has come to represent everything that is rotten in the state of Italy and generally the reason that it will never become the truly great country it deserves to be.
She doesn't realise any of that because to her, I, customer, am lower and more insignificant than a speck of dust on that ink pad she wields so mightily. My envelopes are the wrong size. How dare I only have a €10 note - she's going to have to ask her colleague ONE WHOLE METRE AWAY for some change. Her computer has frozen at the very sight of me and she can't even sell a stamp now. She needs a coffee. It's all my fault. People keep asking her complicated questions. She can't understand my accent and I'm too NICE.
Being nice is, in a stolen walnut shell, part of the Great Cultural Divide encountered by many of us Anglos. We say lots of pleases and thank yous and sorrys and often (spoiler alert: I'm about to make an offensive sweeping generalisation based on a shallow national stereotype) this excessive politeness is taken as a sign of embarrassing weakness. That, or a sign of guilt - in which case, what do we all feel so guilty about? What have we done? (apart from interbreeding with the locals and infiltrating the supermarket with our baked beans and our sweet chilli sauce).
Anyway, somehow, I made her laugh and for a second she was on my side for once. All was well with the world. But then my nuts were nicked and I had to go back to the supermarket feeling totally daft.