Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Winds of March

March entered Florence like a lion yesterday. The wind coming out of the mountains is fierce and still cold and seemingly inexhaustible. Walking can be perilous as buses lift dirt off the streets, which is then picked up by the wind and thrown at the unsuspecting pedestrian (me) at what feels like a hundred miles an hour. It gets in my eyes and my nose and my mouth and my hair and, well, everywhere. I imagine this is what it would feel like to be sandblasted.

I woke up in the middle of the night last night to a terrible noise. A loud and irregular banging noise that sounded suspiciously like it was on our balcony. I guess I was the only one worried about it, so I headed out to the kitchen to take a peek out the French doors.

Our apartment came furnished…along with the essential things inside the apartment came a variety of non-essential items stored on the balcony. A broom, clay flower pots with bamboo sticks buried in the dirt, an electric oil-filled heater that we are afraid to plug in (but would really love to use), and a plastic jug (oh, about 2 gallon size) half filled with what I assume is water are lined up against the house wall. Good thing too, because only one of the outside door shutters can be anchored to the wall. The other is held in place by the combined weight of the heater and water jug. A piece of plywood bungee strapped (with a strap that dates to the Medieval period I’m sure) to the railing is supposed to stop the wind from blowing everything off the balcony.

Well, last night the wind managed to wiggle the plywood out of the bungee cord. As the bottom of the wood slid along the balcony it moved the plastic jug and heater(which is on wheels so isn’t the perfect choice for a door stop anyway) away from the shutter. All it took was one good gust of wind for the shutter to fly away from the wall and swing over the door, bounce off the frame and crash back against the wall, repeatedly. Unfortunately the broom was leaning against the shutter. When it moved the broom started to fall, and through some cosmic miracle ended up between the shutter and the door. It’s still a broom , it’s just that the handle has been reconfigured a little. This is the sight that greeted me when I opened the balcony doors

I felt like a sailor in a gale force wind. I didn’t pick anything up, I slid things along the floor. I was afraid the wind would take anything I picked up out of my hands and throw it to the terrace below. I tried wrestling the plywood back into place, but decided it was just too risky so I brought it into the kitchen. With this windbreak gone I figured I should clear the balcony of anything weightless. The only thing the wind had left there was the broom, and that only because it was wedged between the shutter and the house. I yanked it out of the gap and put it on the kitchen floor. I unhooked the other shutter from it’s anchor and pulled them both shut. Okay, I should probably have turned the light on to do all of this, but I wasn’t wearing a whole lot. So, of course, I kind of crushed one finger trying to figure out how to close and fasten the shutters. Once that was accomplished and the bleeding stopped I was able to go back to sleep.

Really, the only thing that makes this a truly Italian experience is the shutters. Everything else pretty much sounds like a summer storm in Minnesota. Who hasn’t run the gauntlet of legos, hot wheels and barbies to shut windows against a storm that blows rain sideways? Who hasn’t sat up in bed and thought “Did I close my car windows?” or heard the cover of the Weber grill fly into the patio window? The only difference now is that I am mentally trying to descibe what's happening (to myself) in Italian. Which is probably why I hurt my finger.

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