Sign language

He’s at the top of the stairs, grinning enough to split his face in two. His dad, at the bottom, calls up to him. Come on! The boy makes it halfway down the stairs before scampering back up to the top again. What are stairs for, if not to run up and down? Dad’s beginning to lose patience and shouts a bit louder. We’re waiting here. Get a move on! As kiddo reaches the halfway point, Dad shouts again. With a spark of Sicilian fire, the boy stops in his tracks. Rather than shout back, he makes the Sicilian gesture for ‘what the hell …?!’ at his dad, putting the tips of his fingers together and wagging them up and down in front of his chest while hunching his shoulders up towards his ears. Give me a chance! Dad is silenced by his son’s display of eloquently mute backchat, and the boy saunters down the remaining steps with a satisfied smirk on his face.

Further up the road, a woman is tasting ricotta. Her eyes roll in delight and, rather than use words to reply to the question of how it tastes, she pushes her forefinger into her cheek and swivels it in the resulting dimple. Her friend grins in understanding and digs her spoon into the bowl with almost indecent haste.

At the top of the hill an immaculately-uniformed man marshals traffic, including coaches too big for this road on a quiet day, let alone when there’s a festival with hundreds of people and cars trying to get through the town as well. He’s being run ragged, but loving it. His partner may be wearing a more practical fluorescent jacket, but he fades into the background in comparison.  Uniformed man dances in the middle of the road, the whistle clipped to his epaulette bouncing vigorously as he spins to face the cars coming now from behind him, now from the side, now from the other direction. A 4×4, in a direct challenge to our man’s authority, pulls out and tries to roar away up the hill. Uniformed man throws his hands wide and looks to the heavens, before making the ‘what the hell …?’ gesture towards the back of the 4×4, which is now stuck in the middle of the road, in a face-off with a coach. Another driver pulls up to the side of uniformed man and winds down his window. A spirited exchange, clearly mocking the 4×4 driver, takes place, before both men roar with laughter and uniformed man waves his new friend on down the hill.

A gesture speaks a thousand words.

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About Kate Bailward

Kate Bailward is a cat-loving, trifle-hating, maniac driver. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+
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6 Responses to Sign language

  1. Cassie says:

    I love these descriptions! The guy directing traffic sounds like the kind of person you’d hope to see every morning on your way to work– someone you’d always honk or wave hello to. I love when people love their jobs. Especially the ones that could seem so mundane… it’s admirable when someone makes it truly enjoyable like that.
    Cassie´s last post ..Too thin for feelings, too fat for love

  2. Janine says:

    This is beautiful. You’ve given me the best start to my day Kate, reading this. Man, woman and child – they’re all into it. What would the Italians do without hands, eh???? Grazie mille!!
    Janine´s last post ..An easy peace

  3. Prego, Janine! Really glad to have got your day off to a good start. I have to say that I’m just as bad – if not worse, sometimes – as the Italians for handwaving. Last summer I was talking to a (Sicilian) friend in Taormina. He started laughing at me and I couldn’t understand why. Then he took hold of my wrists and held onto them, before telling me to continue explaining whatever it was I’d been talking about.

    I couldn’t do it. ;)

  4. Thanks Cassie! He was brilliant. I could have taken photos of him all afternoon – he was like a whirling dervish, doing his little tapdance in the middle of the road and thoroughly enjoying himself. How great would it be to see him every day? He’d get *every* day off to a good start.

  5. Italian without gestures would just never work would it.

  6. You’re so right, Linda! Just after I published this post I went out for a meal with a particularly expressive Sicilian friend. We’d been talking about dialects, and the conversation morphed through gestures. A few of them were totally new to me, so I asked him to explain them. Hilariously,he couldn’t do it without resorting to yet more gestures. It’s ingrained.

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