The big mistake was taking my wife to Rome in the first place. Any American husband in his right mind should know better than to bring his spouse to Italy, particularly for the first time. But I underestimated the Italians, which is kind of hard to do.
It all started when my wife came back to’fhe Excelsior Hotel from a shopping trip to the Via Condotti. She had a big grin on her face .
“What’s so funny?” I wanted to know.
“Three Italians flirted with me on the street today,” she said, pleased with herself.
“Well, don’t let it go to your head,” I warned her. “They flirt with everybody.”
“Don’t be too sure,” she said. “Besides, the Roman men make you feel like you’re really a woman.”
“I make you feel like you’re a woman, too,” I said angrily.
“Did you ever call me Blue Eyes?” she wanted to know.
“No, and for a very simple reason. You don’t have blue eyes.”
“That’s not the point. Even if they lie, they do it beautifully. I think Italian men are wonderful.”
I decided to drop the subject before I really lost my temper. But the next day, after another shopping tour, there she stood with the same smile on her face.
“Okay,” I said, “what happened today?”
“A traffic policeman stopped all the traflSc on the Via Veneto so I could cross the street.”
“Big deal,” I said. “It so happens that traffic policemen are supposed to stop traffic so people can cross the street. That’s their job.”
“When the fight is green?” she asked. “Then, as I crossed, he tipped his hat and all the cars were blowing their horns. It’s never happened to me in any other city.”
“Of course, it hasn’t. In most cities traffic cops are trying to save people’s lives,” I said. “So he tipped his hat. He was just looking for an opportunity to take it off. Those helmets can get very hot, you know.”
“Don’t be so smart,” she said. “If you want further proof that Italian men really care, this morning I ordered a coffee at Doney’s and the waiter couldn’t have been nicer.”
“So what? Some waiters are nice. What does that prove?”
“Nothing, except he picked up the check.”
She was getting impossible and the next afternoon I was afraid to come back to the room.
The smile was waiting for me.
“I know,” I said. “You went to Bulgari’s and the salesman gave you a diamond necklace as a free souvenir from Rome.”
“Nothing that dramatic,” she said. “But a taxi driver asked me to go dancing with him tonight.”
“Wait a minute. You don’t speak Italian. How do you know he asked you to go dancing tonight.”
“He held up his hands as if he was holding somebody in them and he hummed a waltz.”
“What’s so great about that?”
“The cab was moving while he did it.”
There was nothing I could say to that, so I tried to walk out of the room.
“I think you’re absolutely terrible,” she said. “Everyone has been so nice and all you want to do is to throw cold water on me. You American men just don’t know how to appreciate a woman.”
“Is that so,” I said. “Well, it so happens I have a cousin who went up to a girl on Fifth Avenue in New York and told her she had the most beautiful figure he had ever seen, and he’s now doing twenty years in Sing Sing. Ever since then I’ve kept my thoughts to myself.”