Monday, May 25, 2009

Italian Polizia

The first time I went to Germany, I thought it was odd that I didn’t see many police. The Germans seem to be very disciplined. They all follow the rules. Even today (Memorial Day) my German wife was shocked when the lawn service showed up to mow the lawn. “Are we going to get in trouble because they are making such a racket between 12 and 2 on a holiday?” It sounds crazy, but I think Germans just have a way of doing things. But, like I said, I’ve not seen too many German police. I had a manager of a bar threaten to call the police once and informed me that I wouldn’t probably like the inside of a German jail; I just said “Was immer” and walked off. Tequila makes me belligerent.

But I should get back to my point lest I stray further from my story. I’ve spent time in The Netherlands (Amsterdam to be exact). I’ve traveled all over Germany. And, I’ve been to Italy. Italy is the only place I’ve been to where the police presence meets and possibly exceeds the police presence in Texas. They are everywhere. Of course, when a cab driver in Rome is trying to steal money from you they are magically absent, but that’s another story.

On my first trip to Italy we discovered a nice little pub called “Tortuga”. It’s a quaint little pub on the first floor of a building that is largely under construction. Our friends Giuseppi and Manuela work there.

We decided to have dinner there last Thursday. I was facing the door sitting at a table on the left side of the bar about midway back. I was concentrating on my food, but when the door opened, I could see it and I always looked up to see if any interesting people were coming in. It’s just something I do.

So, I felt the breeze indicating the door had opened and there was a policeman standing at the door. I didn’t think much of it. I figured maybe he was a regular. Off duty, coming in for a beer type thing. I took another bite of food and had another drink of beer. The door opened again.

Two more police had come in. Now there are 3 police standing at the door and a small tingling began in the back of my spine. Easiest means of subtle absquatulation were at the forefront of my thoughts. I had another drink of beer.

Next time I looked up there were 8 armed Polizia standing at the front door. There are basically two different types of Italian police that you see every day. I’m sure there are more but these are the ones I saw. One is the state police: the Polizia. The other is a type of military police: the Carabinieri. From the one Italian I spoke to whose English is not the greatest. He describes Carabinieri as “bad”.

The 8 Polizia began going from table to table gathering ID’s and taking notes. Everyone pulled out a passport or some kind of book that identified them. I guess you aren’t supposed to leave home without it if you are Italian. I didn’t see anyone not produce one. One of the police (they were all men) even casually strolled into the women’s restroom to make sure there was no one hiding out in there.

I had left my passport at the hotel so I was the only person in the bar not to pull out a cool identification booklet. I don’t think the Italian police speak good English. At least not the ones in Catanzaro Lido. Catanzaro Lido is called by some fans, “The California of Italy”. It’s called by others, “North Africa”. I was leaning towards the North Africa description when I realized that the Policeman was talking to me in Italian in a stern voice and was not giving any indication that he was going to switch to English. He also looked irritated.

I was starting to wonder what a “North African” holding facility would be like. I was trying to remember if the movie “Midnight Epxress” took place in Italy or Turkey. My colleague has his passport. I handed them my pretty Texas driver’s license and tried to explain to them that my passport was at the hotel just down the street.

They didn’t seem too happy. They grudgingly accepted my license and came back and with some sort of twisted sign language that my fear inspired brain couldn’t translate asked us if we were together. They pointed to the stamp in my colleague’s passport as if to say, “Did you both get the same stamp?” He said “Si” and they left us alone.

Finally, the capo, or at least the one that acted like the capo came over and asked where we were from. He actually seemed friendly. I was wishing that I had violently sneezed on my license before handing it over. Maybe they’d be concerned about getting the Swine Flu after I told them I was from Texas. The capo told us that “this is control” whatever the hell that means.

It took several minutes for them to write a bunch of stuff down. They had a large stack of ID’s from everyone in the bar and they diligently went through them all.

At the same time the bar manager or owner or someone came out with a bunch of files which they also went through.

Fun was had by all.


  1. So did you ever find out what the hell this was all about? Seems like a pretty big operation to just be a random search.


  2. Yeah, that's what I thought. No one ever explained it to me. I asked around a bit. It's like it "just happens sometimes".

  3. BTW, nice casual use of absquatulation. So did you get that from Durango or vice-versa?

  4. Absquatulation is my discovery. I was doing research trying to figure out where the term hornswoggled comes from.