I feel terrible.
I was just sitting at home when the landline rang. As I ran to answer it, I wonder why I bothered: the only calls I ever get on it are cold calls. Sure enough, the weary patter: it was Aurelio from Something Something Tourism in Italy, asking me if I could answer a few questions.
‘OK,’ I said, ‘as long as it doesn’t take too long.’
‘It will take ten, maybe fifteen minutes.’
‘Oh,’ I said. ‘I’d be happy to do it if it was 5, but to be honest, fifteen minutes is too long. I just don’t have really have time.’
‘Can I call you back another time?’ he asked.
‘Sorry,’ I said. ‘I know it’s not your fault, but fifteen minutes is just too long.’
‘That’s ok, goodbye,’ Aurelio said sadly.
‘Aurelio, wait!’ I said. But he was gone.
Now I feel awful. How many times have I been to Italy? Loads. And how many amazing experiences have I had there? See above. I’ve explored the back streets of Venice; been to the opera in the ampitheatre in Verona (Nabucco. It rained, but it was fun), ridden on the back of a Vespa in Florence, seen Giotto’s frescoes at Padua, explored the Palazzo Ducale in Mantua and had the place to myself, eaten pizza and gone to an art student’s party in Rome, attended my brother’s wedding and my neice and nephew’s christenings in Sicily, been snorkelling in the Cinqueterre, drunk grappa in Bassano del Grappa, been skiing in the Dolomites with an instructor called Titian (well, Tiziano), stayed in a Palladian villa near Vicenza, and at Horace’s villa in Tivoli. I am so insanely lucky. I’ve lost count of the number of nice things Italian people have done for me when I’ve been a clueless stranger abroad. Some of the most amazing experiences of my life have been in Italy. (Which actually gives me a clue as to why they had my number). And I didn’t have time to answer a 15 minute survey. I could have practiced my Italian and everything!
But what really gets me is Aurelio. I always feel sorry for call centre operatives – I think they are the coal-miners and scrubbery maids of the technological era. It must be hell to call people all day long who don’t want to talk to you. I picture him, probably an engineering graduate who can’t get work, sitting in Bari or Rome or Milan, looking at the sunshine outside, patiently dialling number after number and being rebuffed each time. And I could have answered all his questions in the time it’s taken me to write this blog post.
Oh, well. I actually dialled call return but it didn’t come up. Am I a bad person? Or do I just have too much time on my hands? Scusami, Aurelio. I hope you have a good day. And if anyone out there is planning a holiday, may I recommend the Cinqueterre.
Poor Aurelio, but I'm sure he's recovered. I'm reading a book by Tim Parks about Italy at the moment, and now these photographs. I feel a deep yearning coming on.
Little did Aurelio realise he was a source of inspiration and would achieve immortality on your blog! It's a reward. Perhaps one day he will google his name, or I guess, just his first name, and find this post.
Thanks both. Yes, I'm sure that Aurelio forgot about our conversation the second he hung up. I was perhaps over-reacting just a little (well, a lot).Tim Parks is a good writer, I also love The Dark Heart of Italy, I forget who wrote it but it's very good.