Sunday, February 06, 2011

Dante's Treadmill
After months of going back and forth about joining a gym, we decided to buy a tapis roulant/treadmill. For one thing, we don't have a car and when you factor in getting to the gym, paying the €900, waiting in line for the equipment, and all the time it takes changing and showering--not to mention the horrible scene of self-loathing that inevitably follows, exposure to the Miss Tanorexic Italia 2011 competition in the locker room, buying a €350 tapis roulant seemed like a bargain.

The website looked impressive, the item was on sale, and the shipping was free. What we didn't know was that Italian fine print is vastly different from American fine print and that the courier would be the 7,000 year old man with four teeth that we've seen delivering little envelopes from his little white truck. In fact to return such an item in Italy, you have only ten days to pay for a registered letter to go to the company describing the item number and the problems and your bank information. Then you have to pay to ship the item back to the company. Then you have to wait for them to inspect the item and decide whether they will send you a new one or refund your money. Or  not. And the whole process can take years.

K was housebound this week, suffering the lovely after-effects of flea poison, including rashes, trouble breathing, and irregular heart rate, and, therefore, was in fact at home when the furbo/sneaky courier peeked in our door, left a notice, and ran away. Little did he know that F would be picking up T from school and see the little white truck parked in front of the bank in the grand Piazza around the corner from our house. K ran out and accosted him, and he claimed that he had had the enormous package on the truck and that he had a "colleague" drive off with it to a neighboring town where we would be free to pick it up the following morning after ten at their depot. We moved into High Indignation Mode and called the company we ordered it from, complaining vigorously until they called the courier company who said, okay we'll bring it back tomorrow or the next day.  Thursday came and went. Friday came and went. We complained more vigorously and said that we would cancel the order that, luckily, was paid for through Pay Pal.  Then magically, to our great shock and surprise, Saturday morning we got a phone call from an untraceable number saying that the tapis roulant would be to us within an oretta/little hour.

The nonagenarian delivered it, and, in fact, carried it up the two long flights of steep stairs without so much as dropping his cigarette out of his mouth. Then we were furbi/clever enough to follow the website's implicit advice and accept the package con riserva because if you don't you have no legal right to return it. They suggest you write that the imballato é bagnato/ package is wet or something, but we wrote that it "could have" been dropped. As any package "could have" been. Time to follow the connect the dots or paint by the numbers with the silly assembly instructions which had more stretching exercises and warnings to contact a doctor before initiating an exercise routine than constructive information in it. F is pretty handy with these things so he got it together in no time at all.

You have guessed by now what happened next. That's right, it did not work. At all. F packed back up the offending machinery and put it outside of our door so we could prepare for our dinner party that night. The italian sport equipment company played John Lennon's "Imagine" on a loop which made call waiting excruciating and pointless since no one answers on Saturday.

F was making his no-fail Italian-dinner-for-Italian-guests meal of mushroom ravioli in a mushroom lemon white wine sauce, his homemade gorgonzola bread with sun-dried tomato, olive, and artichoke tapinades, and a chocolate molten cake dessert. We invited K's best friend in Italy, Massimo, to come and also, sort of randomly, our dry cleaners.

Well K needed the dress she wore to New Year's dry cleaned and so she went to drop it off and locked eyes for a minute with Linda and found herself making an impromptu invitation. We already knew that Linda's husband Stefano was a motorcycle enthusiast because when he found out this summer that we were from NY he shared with us his dream of going on a motorcycling vacation across American on Route 66.

Massimo brought us an amazing layered, cream and rum filled chocolate cake for dessert, thus saving us the trouble of making our own. And Linda, sweetly oblivious to K's black thumb and now, phobia of plants, gave us a pot of lovely purple flowers. The dinner and conversation went off to perfection and T shocked everyone by somehow having become fairly fluent in italian without our noticing it. During dinner, Stefano told us about a horrible motorcycle accident that he was in last year that left him with metal rods and plates in his collar bone and tibia and ribs sticking into his lungs. Massimo who does energy work himself helped K to explain the bioenergy healing that she does and they made a plan so that she could see if she could help him not have to limp so much anymore.

After dinner K recounted the story of the tapis roulant to our guests and a flurry of fast italian ensued about what we should do next.  Stefano was adamant that we try to fix it ourselves and Linda proposed an electrician friend who might drop by next week.  Before we knew it, F was dragging the monstrous box back in the soggiorno and ripping off the duct tape. Stefano asked for a pointy knife from our silverware drawer and the men were off to the races!  Stefano convinced F to take off the plastic motor casing, where our sherlock holmes found a crack. A crack where the package "could have" been dropped! Unfortunately. And some wires came out from the motor. With a little tin foil from one of T's chocolate bars and the knife as tools, Stefano went to work. Linda and K stopped their conversation abruptly due to a lovely whirring sound that was offering itself up from the darkness of the machine.  Would you believe it? The thing WORKS!

And on exiting Stefano said smiling broadly and pointing enthusiastically to his leg, "okay, now you fix it."

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