I was trimming my geraniums the other day, preparing to bring them inside for the winter. As I worked on my plants out in the garden, I appreciated the warmth of the sun on that beautiful fall day and thought of a woman I encountered once in Siena, Italy, on another sunny fall day.
My husband and I were on our honeymoon, a five-week tour through Italy. We arrived in Siena by train and found our way to the plaza where the famous Palio horse race is held twice a year. We ordered lunch at an outdoor café and my husband went to look for lodging while I guarded the suitcases (I loved that job).
All of a sudden, an elderly woman with white hair and crinkled skin sat down in my husband’s chair. I tried to explain to her that that was my husband’s chair and could she please move. The woman just said, “sole.” My Italian isn’t very deep, but I gathered she was enjoying the sun. I didn’t know what to do, but I again told her that that chair was for my husband and we were having lunch. She said to me, “He can sit over there,” in English and kept sitting next to me with her face held up to the sun.
I am usually a peaceful person but I felt so upset with this woman that I actually felt like pushing her out of the chair. What kind of manners were these? We were customers at the café and she was intruding on our romantic fantasy. After indignantly repeating that that was my husband’s chair, I gave up and the two of us sat next to each other quietly taking in the sun.