Thursday, January 20, 2005

You work in meat company?

It is night time as I wander down a Roman road, not far from the Trevi fountain. I pass a cafe which extends on to the pavement, and there are a couple of old men sitting outside, chattering away and enjoying themselves. One waves to me and asks in English, "My friend, do you have time?"

I don't have a watch, and I shake my head and smile in apology. He sighs and grins. "I waiting for friend. He late. I want go Piano Bar, have fun. Young girls!" he winks. Suddenly an idea strikes him - he gets up and extends his hand in greeting. "Where you from?"

"New Zealand," I decide, and we shake hands.

"New Jersey!"

"No, New Zealand. Nouvo zealandio." I hazard a guess.

He seems to have heard of the place. He looks to the other fellow, frown on his face as if trying to recollect where in Nouvo Zealandio his young nephew lives, searching for all the happy associations he has with the place. He turns to me, "You work in meat company in New Zealand?"

"Eh? Meat company? I am just a humble accountant."

"This is amazing! I welcome you, you come with me, we go to bar, drink, have good time! Young girls!" He suddenly gets up, and takes hold of my arm, all jocularity and eager enthusiasm at the amazing coincidence I cannot spot.

Alas, I must decline this unlikely and generous offer, and thank him profusely but tender my regrets. I am eager to be away. He looks hurt. "You no worry money. I am rich man!"

I congratulate him but insist on saying good-bye, and resuming my walk back to the hostel. As the clock just ahead declares, the hour is getting late, and it is time for innocent tourists to be in bed.