Have you ever been accosted by a tourist, in a busy street like Oxford Street, obstructing pedestrians' path? I've been. By a woman, and a man, piggy-packing a boy with a swollen cheek as large as a half cantaloupe.
o Escuse me.
o Yes, sir. What can I do for you?
Now, he leafed through a pocket bilingual dictionary, and placed the tip of his finger on the word 'pharmacy'. His wife, repeatedly said, "Grazie … Grazie … Grazie."
I led them to the nearest pharmacy. Briefed the chemist about what had happened.
The chemist asked me what the man was looking for. Addressing the Italiano, I inquired if he could speak French. He replied, "No." German? No. Arabic? No. Turkish? No. Now, the chemist and I began consultation. I pointed to the swollen cheek and suggested the tourist might be looking for some kind of antibiotics. Would you, please, show him some? The medicine was placed on the counter. The Italiano shook his head, but the woman kept repeating: Grazie.
Like a lightening, it came to my mind the name of a friend who had studied in Italy for four years. That's it; let's do it. I used a pay phone and called the Italian graduate, who fortunately answered the call. I explained the whole issue to him, and then asked him to talk to the Italian tourist. Having handed the receiver, I leaned against the booth just like the cat in the 'Tom and Jerry' cartoon, looking very proud of my ingenuity. And the woman kept saying grazie.
They talked for about ten minutes, while the Italian tourist kept changing color: red, blue, pale etc. Finally, he handed me the receiver. I asked the Italian graduate, "Ok. What is it he wants?" The friend replied, "Actually, he's looking for a kind of medicine.' I shouted, "Dammit, I know he's looking for a kind of medicine. What is the name of this f… medicine?" He again said, "Just a kind of medicine!"
At this time the woman approached me and insisted to pay for the cost of the local phone call.
Now, I almost grabbed the Italiano by the neck, and said, "Dammit, keep pronouncing the f… medicine, while I kept listening hard to the phonemes and sounds he made. We all returned to the pharmacy. The chemist was about to hide himself, when I grabbed him by his apron, saying, "Doctor, give me one more chance, please. Would you please show this man some petrolatum? He looked at me as if I was insane.
The Italiano examined the petrolatum. Pushing it back, he said, "Oila." I beseeched the chemist if there were any form of liquid petrolatum. He nodded yes. Ok. Bring it to him, please. This will be the last of it, I swear. The chemist, angrily placed a vile of some liquid on the counter and attended to something else, but he kept watching the Italiano from the corner of his eye.
The man put the boy with the swollen cheek down on the floor. His wife was radiating. The chemist and I were intensely watching him. The Italiano, after smelling the liquid, tilted his head backward as much as he could; opened his mouth wide open and kept pouring the liquid into his throat. Belching and while looking at us, he placed his hand on his buttocks, pretending pulling something out, and with a big smile thanked us all.
I asked the chemist. "What the hell was in that bottle?" He replied 'paraffin!
Now, I remembered how many times the poor Italiano kept saying 'Oila Vasilina'!