Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Service with a grimace - Italian style

It was always likely to be one of those days.

Sunday, the end of one of those many weekends in May this year made longer by a public holiday falling on a Thursday.

A time when the the world and its mother (or at least those who could afford it) decided enough was enough and that the typical two-day break should be stretched to make four.

Most definitely a period when anyone with a  shred of sanity would think twice before taking to the road, rail or air.

So mea flippin' culpa for suggesting a weekend away, and one (as someone with Fearless Flyer courses from two major airlines under his belt to help conquer his phobia) requiring a 'plane trip to boot.

Naturally the airport was heaving with those making their way back home.

There were the interminable (ouch) queues at the check-in, inescapably followed up by the snail pace procession at security where shoeless and beltless with trousers heading dangerously south (I really must try to grow a pair of hips, but it's probably too late now) I invevitably set alarm bells ringing. .

Signs to the departure gate seemed to lead in all different directions simultaneously and I switched off my internal GPS as I followed the flock, my friends trailing behind me.


We had plenty of time to kill (perhaps not the most apposite turn of phrase) and I had a grumbling tummy, so it was little surprise that my attention was drawn to what seemed to be the only feeding station en route.

Once again there was a queue, well more a semi-organised throng really. But that, as was explained to me by the less than helpful member of staff behind the counter, was only for those waiting to grab a sandwich and a soft drink.

My stomach was calling out for something more substantial.  I had turned into a man with a mission - to eat.

Looking around for a free table, there appeared to be only one available. But there was also a sign which read ominously "Our apologies but due to technical reasons (???) we cannot ensure prompt service."

"What does that mean?" I asked a passing waitress in my most courteous manner.

"It means we're short staffed and you might have to wait a long time before we can get around to you," she growled in response.

I murmured a sound intended to express that I both understood and sympathised before asking whether it would be all right for us to take the table I had spotted.

She grunted a nod (it's possible you know), shrugged and turned her attention elsewhere.

A pause for thought.

We took our places. We sat. We waited.

I smiled (well grinned inanely probably) frequently raising my eyebrows (and my hand) in that (surely) internationally recognisable effort to gain the attention of any member of staff.

My patience and unassailable good humour (written all over my face) eventually paid off as one of them, perhaps tired of the beaming buffoon seated in her line of vision, brought me a menu.

A thank you - measured but sincere - I can do both quite easily - and eventually the same waitress, who was clearly having more than just a bad hair day, returned to take our order.

Around us, others appeared to be less fortunate.

Some had their food slammed down on the table in front them. Others were treated to a growling "cash or card?" response when they asked to pay.

But with me...well "my" waitress seemed to have warmed to my "please" and "thank you", my...well, manners, I suppose and, later on, my firm but polite request to return the mineral water when she prematurely whisked it away, was met with a flicker of a smile.

I was speaking her language - in all senses it seemed. I understood what was making her tick (and ready to explode) and I wasn't at all surprised when she announced out of the blue to those still waiting in line for a table that "the restaurant was now closed" and "no more orders would be taken".

"Say what?" said one of my friends. "What the heck is she doing?

"Oh she's probably just had enough," I replied. "And let's face it, she's under a lot of pressure here."

"That's as maybe, but how come you're so relaxed and good humoured," he persisted.

"Even you've got to admit this is pretty crap service."

"Well yes," I replied. "It's not exactly what you might call professional.

"But frankly, I prefer the disarmingly charming (yes I really sometimes pompously assonate when I talk) approach because being equally unpleasant in return just...well, it takes too much effort.

"Besides 'when in Rome' - well Naples actually...."

Because dear reader, this admittedly appalling service - well chronicled by others on TripAdvisor - wasn't in France, but at l'aeroporto internazionale di Napoli.

Ah Italy.

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