Today’s word isn’t so much one you need to memorize so you can say it, but you’ve got to be able to properly interpret it when you see it written…
Siena. August 2010. We’re off to the Owl contrada (Sienese neighbourhood) for dinner in their tiny little piazza. My friend is already happily there, and I’ve called her for directions.
“Hey, so, I’m on Banchi di Sopra, whereabouts are you?” I ask, looking up and down like I think I’ll find her in the hundreds of gelato-enjoying people crowding the street.
“Hmm, well, let me see. I’ll just walk a little further to find a street sign.” Now, in Siena, this can be difficult. Street signs are often plaques attached to the corners of buildings at an intersection. But not at every intersection. And not on each corner. And they’re often up high. So really, it’s quite the sport to look for them.
“Yeah, let me know the street. I have a vague idea of where you are, but….” It was true. I knew roughly where the Owl contrada was located, but not their tiny little piazza where this dinner was being held. I waited while my friend wandered and wandered, giving me a play-by-play of what she saw and who she passed.
“Ok, just passed a cute guy in an ugly green shirt. Why do Italian guys do that?” She continued for honest-to-goodness another 3 straight minutes. I sighed audibly. “Ok ok ok ok. Lots of little streets, no street signs as of yet. And it’s dark, so that doesn’t help, you know? Oh look! Up in front of me is a big, really old building, lots of windows, about 5 storeys high…Maybe you know it?”
I rolled my eyes. “You’ve just described 98% of the buildings in Siena. The other 2% of buildings are just ‘old’… Common, give me a street name to work with here! Or store names.”
“Nope, no stores. Ok wait! Eureka!” You could hear the excitement in her voice. “I’m on a street called ‘Pedoni a Sinistra’… Probably means sinister something-or-other…”
And if she said anything else, I couldn’t hear it over my own laughter. There I was, cackling hysterically in the middle of the street. The gelato-eaters gave me a wide berth.
“No!” I gasped, between heaves of laughter. “No, that can’t be it!”
“What do you mean? Why are you laughing like that?” She demanded. “I just searched for 5 minutes. It’s the first street sign I found!”
“No, no! It’s not a street sign.” Gasp, heave, gasp, gasp! Cackle, cackle. “Pedoni a sinistra is Italian for ‘pedestrians to the left‘!”
“Oh jeez….” was all she replied.
Needless to say, it was another little while before I found the piazza and got to sit down and enjoy some food. I laughed all the way there as I, a pedestrian, made sure to keep left.