Whoever said that all good stories start with someone walking into a pub was an absolute genius.
Trying to beat the scorching 94-degree hellfire weather seemingly blasting from ancient times, two of my friends and I found refuge in the air-conditioned Trinity College pub. We immediately ordered ourselves a pint of either Smithwicks and Carlsberg and sighed with relief.
“Ciao, beautiful girls,” greeted the young bartender, who then seemed to display complete shock upon discovering we were American.
“There’s no way you’re American…you’re not fat, ugly, or obnoxious,” he said, “but I know you Americans will want the wi-fi password, so here, I write it down for you.”
He continued to chat with us and joke around with us but I couldn’t help but think, Is that really what Europeans think of Americans? I didn’t want that to be the main impression, but thankfully he delved into the topic a little more without me even having to ask.
Our bartender, who had lived in San Diego for a few years, said that his main problem with Americans is that we are ignorant of our rights, especially when it comes to the government.
“You know, you have [GMO] food that your government puts out for you in the store, and you don’t know what you are eating,” he said. “Especially here [in Italy], we know our food hasn’t been tampered with.”
Upon discovering we were here in Rome studying journalism and travel writing, he said, “You see, in Italy, at least we know that we are…controlled by government with journalism. You think you have freedom of speech but you don’t.”
It was interesting to me mostly because he was able to verbalize his thoughts, but when he asked us if we had any concrete negative impressions of Italy, we couldn’t pinpoint one that rivaled the educated notions he had. Lack of air conditioning and iced coffee seemed very trivial to mention in comparison to a general lack of awareness about our authoritative rights.
He then told us about two documentaries about journalists and politics that he said would further stimulate our brains on this topic.
After about an hour of deeply intriguing conversation, the beer bubble that surrounded the four of us popped and we continued on with our day. I’ve come to realize a trend in Roma: walk into the most unassuming building and exit reborn with a new perspective (and a loose wallet, as we tipped him heavily).