This was the point where I should have taken a bow… Hindsight is always 20/20 vision, right?
So, I’m a guest of Colonnara Viticultori in Cupramontana ~ In the Castelli di Jesi region of Le Marche. This day, we were having lunch at family Ristorante in a neighboring town. It was as authentic as it could possibly be. Did I have “American Tourist” written across my forehead in special only-seen-to-Italians ink?
Probably, when I arrived, and by the time I left, I definitely did…
Still, I felt like I belonged. I’ve had more than a few very unusual adventures in life. I can’t even tell you how many people have told me that I should be writing a book. (Not sure I have the discipline or desire, yet.) This one falls into my Most Embarrassing Moments chapter.
Our Cast of Characters
Everything imaginable was ordered by our hosts for us, all in Italian, at the restaurant… They don’t have a written menu. In Italian, we were told what the day’s dishes were. We had a choice of about three dishes for each course. Instead of knowing what was being requested, because everything was being ordered in Italian, with its own lyrical style with such sensual emotion (words like “handmade tagliatelli”), that’s what I was listening to.
While we waited, we also had a tasting of Colonnara’s regional wines. Then, antipasto arrived and everyone got right into food and wine pairings. Perfect matches, by the way.
By now, I was really craving a salad, and I think I was the only person doing so… (I’ve read if you order salad first in Italy, you’re labeled as a tourist. So, if I hadn’t been labeled yet, there it was…)
I hadn’t seen so many flashbacks of growing up of with a large family-style meal surrounding me … The rhythm and pace of it were intoxicating. The foods were amazing. We were all sharing communally.
Now, between my entree and dessert, I excused myself to go to the ladies room
This is where it gets real. I have to hand it to Italy, across the central part of this peninsula. Every single toilet flush (I can’t make this any more delicate) looks like this. At first, upon arrival i Italy at Castello di Meleto in Gaiole, I spent about five minutes looking for the flush. I thought this was just more art on the wall. Finally, I gave it a push, and much to my surprise it activated. I was so relieved.
So now, it’s days later. I know what it is, I know what to do. But, in this restaurant, I couldn’t find what I knew it should be. In fact, I couldn’t find any flush at all – except, I did see a chain hanging from the ceiling. I remembered my days when a chain was used for flushing, so I pulled it.
Much to my horror, I could hear an alarm going off in the restaurant. Oh, my, gawd… What had I done. I heard people rushing into the little room that had two stall doors: Signore e signori. Yup, I was in the Signore and I had to say so. Oh, my, gawd. This is not the glamour of travel. This is the American tourist making one more obvious mistake, and it was going to go public, quicker than I wanted.
Outside of the restroom door, leading into that area, there’s a light that goes off, along with the knowledge by the staff that it’s a cry for help, from pulling the chain. Yup, every local in the restaurant knows it’s either a grandmother has gone down or a tourist. (Did it help that I was both?) Bring in the paramedics, this ole gal didn’t know how to flush the toilet. Good baby Jesus, I was nailed.
So, my helpful signori couldn’t find the flush pad either. We looked and looked – this was evidently his first foray into the ladies’ room. Then, he moved the curtain to the right, and there it was, hiding under the curtain. Who would think to look behind a curtain for a flush? As an adult, have you ever had anyone help you flush your own toilet? Could it be any more embarrassing?
Why was it hidden in this wonderful restaurant? Because EVERYONE in this tiny town has been going to this restaurant for generations. Parents and grandparents have been teaching customs to their children for years. Bring in a tourist and it’s either going to be a real emergency, or – as in my case – it’s just another tourist.
So, when I had to exit my situation… And that door was opened to a waiting audience
That’s when I should have – instead of blushing to high heaven – just taken a bow. I know I would have had a standing ovation, I just know it.
Special thanks to Colonnara Viticultori‘s, Cora Tabarrini, Emiliano Bernardi, and Michael Yurch of Bluest Sky Group, for all of my fabulous adventures during my visit in Cupramontana. They, in no way, had anything to do with my own foibles.