First of all: Happy belated 4th of July everyone! I hope your bbq's and fireworks and beer brawls went smashingly. I had to work all day but Andrea and I are cooking up some burgers on our electric grill tonight in honor.
Which brings us to today's blog, boys and girls. Since the past week at work has pretty much been a constant push-and-shove between me and my co-workers about none other than the AIR CONDITIONING, I thought I would post the translation of an article I wrote a couple years ago for the now-defunct "California" magazine here in Italy. Reading it over gave me a smile and made me realize with both a sense of comfort and of fear that things over here will never change...
by Jodi Krumholz
There is a little known fact that in Italy, every man, woman and child is deathly afraid of what they call the colpo d’aria. Even the name is fairly scary (or, at least the way I pronounce it). More than a mother or two has been known to lock her child inside the house because of it. Fathers everywhere have learned all the self-defense methods known to man to protect their offspring from it. Teachers and colleagues, neighbors and local politicians. It is the greatest common denominator that exists in present-day Italy. And evidence of it can be found around the world. Scared yet?
It’s the wind. Yup, you read that right: wind. The wind through the trees, the proverbial wind beneath my wings, a windy morning, a winded statement. It’s all scary, it’s all dangerous. That invisible stuff that you and I have so naively dubbed with the generic name “oxygen”—it’s after you, and it can kill you.
I know, I know, it may seem ridiculous to our untrained ears. But just imagine this: you are sitting peacefully in your office at work. Room temperature at a comfortable 72 degrees. And then your colleague comes around, invites you out to lunch. You stand up, pick up your wallet, walk out the office door and down the corridor, past the front desk and down the elevator. BAM. Wind. It goes up your shirt and touches your (gasp) unprotected neck. Caresses your cheek and kisses your earlobes.
That’s it, right there: the beginning of the end. You might as well head back up to your office, pack up your things and head home to bed for the rest of the day. Life, as you know it, is on its last legs.
At the very least, you will have picked yourself up a nice little fever. 99, 100 degrees. If you’re lucky, that is! If you’re really unlucky (if you forgot to put on an undershirt this morning, or if you haven’t eaten any fruit for the past few days), you will most likely have to run to the bathroom, too. Probably stay there for a half-hour or so, doubled over by the force of (mildly) intense stomach cramps.
Then you will probably start sweating (if you haven’t already made up a living will, this might be a good moment to do so...). That tank top you have on under your t-shirt, layered sweater and scarf draped over your shoulders will most likely turn damp with your own disgusting perspiration. Cover up, young impressionable! Your father would do it, your grandfather before him would have done it...your great-great-great ancestor probably invented covering up. So don’t argue with me, and cover up already!
So why, in (almost) all seriousness, is this colpo d’aria so scary? While the rest of the free world writes poetry about walking through open fields, shoe and shirtless, wind in hair and through fingertips...why are Italians so afraid of the wind?
In layman’s terms, they believe that a sudden change in temperature can weaken the body and cause illness – in particular, can cause fever and stomach problems. Has this, you ask (I can hear you) been scientifically proven? Well, like most old wives’ tales, not really. Is it the power of suggestion? Is it that extra just-to-be-safe gene that their grandparents have passed down through the generations, in a critical attempt at preserving their species? Or could it be an age-old excuse to keep heating bills at home down (the higher the heat in the living room, the more you’ll feel the wind when you go back outside, deary)?
Whatever the reason is, people, I am here to tell you how to protect yourselves. Close your windows tight at night, open them only in the morning hours to make the house feel fresh and new. Keep your room temperatures as close to the human suffering point as possible (only then will you manage to keep away the fever gods). And – whatever you do – do not leave your house without a scarf, a wool hat and a pellet gun (not really, but it can't hurt). Because you never know when the colpo might sneak up on you and – in an unexpected violent turn of events – breeze through your hair and make you miserable for (precisely) the next 14 minutes.