It’s been quite a while since I received a transmission from the exceptional “Cartolina,” who wanders the neighborhood in the morning doing his errands and exchanging greetings and comments with passing people, known or otherwise, and also to himself and the Great Unknown.
This brilliant, glistening morning, we were walking toward the vaporetto stop, less admiring the glory of the sunshine than wondering if there were going to be any vaporettos running. Because today — in honor of March 1? in honor of Thursday? in honor of dawn? — a transit strike was planned.
Cartolina had something to say about that. Of course we all had something to say, but our remarks were of the threadbare, generic sort that usually go with rain or the first day of school.
To understand his utterance, you need to know that the vaporettos are also called battelli (ba-TELL-ee), in Venetian pronounced bateli (ba-TAYee). But the sybil of via Garibaldi is also its Mrs. Malaprop.
So his muttered announcement was not “Sciopero dei bateli” (the vaporettos are on strike), it was “Sciopero dei bateri“: The bacteria are on strike.
Linguists know all about how letters, like “l” and “r,” switch places. But it takes Cartolina to turn a boat into a bacillus.
For all I know, though, that may be precisely what he meant, especially when you consider the contagion which thrives in crowded waterbuses.
No vaporettos, no bacteria. And yes, we have no bananas.