I’m on my last full day in Rome, after a full day spent in my hotel room, sick as a—well—dog, with some stupid stomach ailment. Horrible, cramping, debilitating pain, but no icky symptoms.
No, not COVID. I bought a test earlier yesterday morning and checked myself for that, since I fly out first ungodly thing tomorrow morning. Gotta be responsible, after all.
(Speaking of being responsible, get your fuzzy asses out there and get yourselves vaccinated and then boosted. That’s the only way we’re going to be able to get a handle on this fucking pandemic.)
I stopped at a place a few doors down from where I’m staying to have my morning croissant and cappuccino. The barista there, a lovely young woman called Sara, has been having a crap morning.
One of many, it seems.
Her boss hasn’t made sure to have everything available that she might need this morning (or most mornings, it seems) for customers like me.
This means she has no bread for things like panini, which is a popular item here, as well as a stock of fresh croissants that is fast running out (I got the last one she had available this morning).
Once things died down, she came out for a (to her) relaxing vape, and we had a lovely chance to chat about things.
She’s 21 and has had 5 years’ experience as a barista. She’s very good at it and knows how to do her job well enough that she’s got other cafe owners trying to poach her when they come by for a coffee or a drink.
She’s tried telling her boss repeatedly that he needs to make sure things remain in good supply. Believe it or not, they actually ran out of coffee a couple weeks ago because he didn’t order in more on time. She called him about it.
“Use the coffee in storage!”
She looks for it. Finds it. It’s WAY out of date.
Euw. Double euw.
Ends up using it anyway, as she has no other choice. It’s not bad, per se, but the flavor pretty much isn’t there (a loose translation of how she related that to me). She is heartily embarrassed, but what else can she do?
I ask her how she is feeling about the election the other day, where fascists have been put in power.
Scared. Very scared.
“Students are protesting. They are refusing to go to class. This is not good. This is not a good country.”
The expression on her face breaks my heart.
I mention that only 64% of voters turned out for this election.
“64% of people here are old. Very old.”
She may be right. Old people and nuns.
A lot of nuns. So many nuns.
I told her that many of us in the United States are scared shitless of people like Donald Trump, and that he does not represent the vast majority of us. Unfortunately, our election turnouts are about the same. If more people turned out to vote, perhaps situations like this one wouldn’t happen anywhere near as often.
Oh, and we also talked about wages here in Italy.
There is no minimum wage here. None.
She is currently making 7 Euro an hour for a five hour shift. Oftentimes, if she ends up having to work longer hours (some asshat or asshats show up at the last possible moment and demand service) she has to work until they leave and more than likely won’t be paid for that additional time.
People In the States talk about how people aren’t expected to tip in Europe. That part is true, but there’s more to it than that. It’s a far darker situation.
What I’m hearing is that servers are monitored to keep them from accepting tips they would more than gratefully accept. Could you live on the equivalent of $7 an hour?
I doubt it.
Sometimes, we can’t hold up Europe as an example and say how much better everything is over this way. Because from what I’m hearing from the locals, they aren’t.
I’ve encouraged Sara to take up one of those unexpected barista offers. Sooner, rather than later. She’s more than worth it.
Here’s to you, Sara! I hope you are able to rise above your current situation and get all of the good things you so richly deserve — and thanks for putting up with this old lady, borking up your morning.