An Italian in Beirut
On Sunday we went out for dinner to Nonna pizzeria, while our little one slept soundly at home with her nonna.
As we left the house to look for a taxi, we had our usual debate about how much we were willing to pay: my maximum is 10,000 LL (approx $7), while my husband’s is 8,000 LL when he’s with me, 5,000LL when he’s not.
‘Leave it to me’ said my husband, ever the Italian- haggler.
But after just missing 2 taxis, taken by women going in the opposite direction, we began to wonder whether we would get one at all, at any price, as the sun had just set and it was time for Iftar (breaking the daily Ramadan fast).
Third time lucky I said and let’s pay 10,000.
But in the end we only paid 2,000 as a bus came and we decided to take that as far as downtown and try again with a taxi from there. We sat at the front and my husband made ‘conversation’ with the driver, who was from Syria (‘Syria, no problem!’ he insisted) but also had family in Rome. Once again I was reminded how loved the Italians are in this part of the world, despite their early exit from the World Cup this year.
So loved it seems that they will let us ride for free. When we got off the bus a taxi stopped for us and said he would take us to the end of the street where the restaurant was on his way to the airport. While driving us he proudly shared his 3 Italian words (grazie, buongiorno and…. pause while he tried to remember… prego!), complimented my husband on his 3(ish) Arabic phrases and completely refused to accept any money at all, even though my husband kept offering (we were below even his minimum!). We laughed about our bizarre journey all the way up the hill to the pizzeria, and spent the money (and calories) we’d saved on an enormous panna cotta .
Unfortunately the journey home wasn’t quite so sweet, as despite finding a taxi waiting at the door who was willing to take us for 8,000, we managed to upset the driver when we told him to get to our house from the traffic free road at ‘the top’ rather than the crowded Corniche ‘at the bottom’ and he insisted that we pay a dollar extra.
Maybe our mistake was not telling him about being Italian.