The petite lady hit the seat talking and that continued all the way to the airport. It turned out she was an Italian who had immigrated to Denver 10 years ago and was currently teaching French in a Colorado college. The Middlebury College summer language program generates a stream of interesting and lucrative customers, and Angelina was one of them.
"So, you talk Italian, French and, of course, English. That's impressive. Anything else?"
"Well, thank you," Angelina replied. She had those dark flashing eyes which can take you a long way in life. "I also speak Spanish, but I lose it. I don't speak enough, so it goes. How about you?"
"Me?" I said, laughing out loud. "I can barely speak English."
"I can teach you Italian," she said. "It is the most easy. Every word - exactly how you spell it. No exceptions."
"But then I'll have to learn all the hand movements, right? You can't speak Italian without the hands."
"Oh, yes - and also the facial expression."
We zipped up Route 7, happy as calamari in the deep ocean. Man, I dug this woman. I asked, "So, what was your hometown in Italy?"
"Parma," Angelina replied. "You know, where they make-a the cheese."
"Ah-ha," I said. "Beautiful. That's northern Italy, right?"
"Yes, not far from Milan."
"Northern Italy is quite different from the south, I understand."
"Oh, yes - in northern Italy we work!"
We laughed together and I said, "I hitchhiked through the south of Italy when I was a teenager. I can never forget the pizza. So delicious! And they sell it in the bakeries."
A scowl came over Angelina's face. I had hit a sore point. "The pizza is going - how you say? - down the hill now. They make it American-style to please the tourists. The pizza should be the nice thick pasta, the bread, with just a little sauce, really - the fresh tomato. Now they make it thin bread, drowning in the tomato sauce. No good!"
"That's a crime, Angelina. I might never eat pizza again."
I knew that was a promise I couldn't possibly keep, but, in the moment, the solidarity felt good.