Standing in “Line” LIVE!

As with all forms of bureaucracy here in Italy, the public health system is impressively complicated. I’ve written about it before, but all you need to know for the sake of today’s story is that there is a system called the CUP—pronounced “coop,” which I find fitting on so many levels—through which people must schedule their doctor’s appointments and pay their co-pays (rather than doing those things directly at the doctors’ offices). There are CUP windows at many pharmacies and medical centers; today’s tale of trickery and angst takes place at one of the latter where I went to pay for Sophie’s optometrist visit.

Are you ready to spend half an hour in an expat’s shoes?

Great! Let’s get started.

Warning: Those of you who suffer from agoraphobia, claustrophobia, noise-triggered migraines, and/or overactive bladders should proceed with the utmost caution. Thank you.

9:59a – I walk into the CUP center and notice that the electronic number displays on the walls are all blinking zeroes. Awesome. I’d been hoping to sit and read while waiting my turn, but I suppose this is as good an opportunity as ever to work on my waiting-in-line skills. That isn’t sarcasm, by the way. Navigating lines in Italy takes a certain skill set that I have yet to master. However, the fifteen people already in line seem placid enough. I take a number just to be safe and join the queue.

10:00a – As I wait for the line to move forward, I notice that the building’s heating system must be on. It is distinctly warm in the room, at least 85°. While I ponder who would run the heat on an already-warm spring day, several newcomers take numbers and get in line “behind” me. By that, I mean that they fan out beside me like chorus girls effectively ensuring that I remain the one in the rear. I expected this, so it doesn’t faze me. I just need to hold my place, and all will be well.

10:01a – The line shuffles forward a foot, and I now count nineteen people ahead of me. More are now crowded at my sides as well. Where are they coming from? I scoot closer to the elderly man in front of me and grip my number like it is the grenade of justice.

10:02a – Subtlety Hour is over. A well-coiffed blonde woman takes a number, sniffs the air for weakness, and then makes a beeline for me. “I’m just here to pay,” she announces to the top of my head as she tries to edge in front of me. Aha! I think. This I DO know how to handle! Had this happened seven years ago when we first moved to Italy, I would have let her in and then cried about the experience later. Now, though, I am tough. I have strategies. I have perfected… The Elbow Flex. To correctly perform this maneuver, you take a deep, satisfied breath as if you were stepping outdoors on bright prairie morning. While you exhale all that cleansing air, you puff your torso and place your hands on your hips, pointing your elbows outward. This must be done casually enough that you can pretend it’s not on purpose yet deliberately enough that everyone else knows it is. Once you have armed yourself with these jutting joints of territorialism, you can look line-cutters in the eye as I did the blonde woman and say, “Sorry, but I’m just here to pay too” as you physically block their progress.

10:03a – Blonde lady is undaunted by either verbal or elbowal barriers. In a supreme move of one-upmanship, she “accidentally” steps on my foot while wedging herself between my body and that of the elderly man in front of me. A small burst of steam escapes my ears, though that could be due to the temperature in the room. It’s got to be in the 90° range by now.

10:04a – A pleasant-faced PR volunteer walks by, and I consider asking her if she can do anything about the heat. However, seven people are already complaining to her. “The number display isn’t working!” several of them point out at once. “What are we supposed to do?” “Wait in line,” she replies with an affectionate smile. “But I’m only here to pay!” protests the blonde woman who is still on top of my foot. “So is she,” the volunteer says, pointing to me. “So are they. We’re all here to pay, and we can’t do anything about the numbers, so let’s just wait in line calmly, shall we?” She walks back up the line, and I notice there are now twenty-three people ahead of me. For the love…

10:07a – Despite the fact that a good two-dozen people have arrived after me, I am still the last person in line. The newcomers are all clustered at my sides waiting for the slightest lapse in concentration or resolve that would allow them to merge in front of me. I decide to strike up a conversation with the closest of them, a young mom whose arm is literally resting on my purse. I figure that if someone is going to be that close to my wallet, I should at least try to stay on her good side.

10:09a – It is now 95°, maybe 96°. I am sweating through my spring cardigan and cannot fathom how the others are surviving in their scarves and coats. The general mood does seem a bit more heated than before. The blonde woman on my foot is huffing and telling anyone who will listen that this is a grave injustice, she only has to pay, how can they expect her to wait? The mom hanging onto my purse is arguing with someone on the other side of me about whether or not the CUP should be giving out numbers if we were going to have to wait in line anyway. “Che casino!” people are muttering from all around. What a casino.

10:12a – Behind me, genuine shouting breaks out. A man has just arrived and is eager that we all know how busy he is, very busy, FAR too busy to have to wait in line. This is a free country, he says like a soapbox preacher with an emergency. Why should he have to wait in line? BECAUSE THE REST OF US HAVE TO, YOU IMBECILE, someone informs him. A dozen people start arguing at once. Chief among their complaints is the fact that lines exist and that we are expected to use them. Why should we? What is the point? Are we cattle to be treated this way? The volunteer hurries back and forth trying to calm everyone. “We are well mannered!” she calls over the din. “We are civilized adults!”

10:13a – No. No, we are not.

10:15a – To my relief, blonde woman moves off my foot and leaves the building in a huff. Maybe I can breathe a little more easily now.

10:15a and ten seconds – A new blonde woman is suddenly at my side with her body angled so as to make it seem like she’s in front. I have no idea where she came from or what she’s here to do, but I do know that she needs to pee. I know this because she has started informing the volunteer of this at top volume. Why should she have to wait in line? She has to pee! Badly, dammit!

10:17a – The temperature is now pushing 100°, and the general volume is rising along with it. The very busy yelling man is now directly behind me, but at least that means I’m not the last person in line anymore. The mom leaning on my purse has engaged him in a shouting match about the philosophy of standing in lines. I try recording them on my phone, but the man catches me about to push start. I pretend I’m texting instead and will the embarrassed flush on my cheeks to simmer down.

10:18a – Another mom inserts herself into the fray. She is holding up a squirming preschooler as evidence for why she shouldn’t have to wait in line. Because: BABY. The others are having none of it; I see The Elbow Flex rippling down the line like a stabby sideways version of The Wave. Preschooler mom yells about the ridiculousness of being expected to wait her turn, and the volunteer explains for the nine thousandth time that lines are how we keep order and civility in just such circumstances as these. Mr. Very-Busy jumps in, alternately defending and berating the mom. Both of them berate the volunteer for a while, but she is much more skilled in the art of blocking than I, and the mom is at last obliged to remove both herself and her kicking preschooler to the “back” of the “line.”

10:20a – I am sweating profusely now. I would take off my cardigan except that I have one yelling man, one yelling mom, and one yelling blonde with a small bladder pressed against my body. One of them is touching my butt. I text angsty emojis to Dan.

10:22a – The volunteer walks within range again, and both Pee Lady and Busy Man resume their high-volume complaining. The volunteer is looking decidedly worse for wear; her hair is plastered down in the 107° heat, her shoulders are clenched, and I watch as the last remnants of sparkle in her eyes blaze out. She engages the man first. “Do not use that kind of language with me, SIR!” He starts to bluster, but she cuts him off. “Have you ever been to the theater before? That’s probably too high a level of sophistication for you, but—” He informs her that he most certainly has been to the theater, many times. “Ah, well then I’m sure you must be familiar with what they have at theaters.” “I don’t un—” “THEY HAVE LINES!” During his momentary silence, she turns to the blonde woman. “Ma’am. If you have to pee so badly, by all means, go ahead and pee. ON THE FLOOR.”

10:23a – Busy Man: 0, Bladder Lady: 0, Volunteer: 1,000,000. She walks away muttering, “We are NOT well-mannered, we are NOT civilized, we are immature and conniving, oh yes. We wouldn’t know civility if it bit us…” I think about giving her a standing ovation, but it’s too hot now to do anything but shuffle forward. To my surprise, there are only five people left in front of me. The end is in sight.

10:24a – Four people, not counting Ms. Bladder who is still angling her body to pretend she is in front of me.

10:25a – Three. I look at her hard, hoping she’ll feel appropriately abashed and step back. She does not.

10:27a – Two. I decide it doesn’t hurt to try The Elbow Flex one last time.

10:28a – One. Pee Lady gives up. A solid dozen people may have cut in line in front of me this morning, but I have prevailed over one of them! 1,000,000 points for me.

10:29a – My turn has arrived! I see a CUP window free up, and I stride forward. It’s like being released from prison. It’s like stepping onto the shores of a brave new world. It’s like—A white-haired but incredibly agile man darts out of nowhere and runs in front of me to the window. I freeze for a moment, unsure which direction my emotional current is pulling me… and then I begin to laugh. Sure, I have just been outmaneuvered by the thirteenth consecutive person in half an hour. True, I am no savvier at this cultural experience than I was at the beginning, not really. But it is all pretty entertaining when I think about it, and even if ten more senior citizens cut me off here at the end, the glorious truth remains that I’m through the line. Done. Finished. Free. You might even say… uncooped.

The end.


Indecision LIVE!

And now, for your intellectual betterment, a peek into my complex and highly rational decision-making process:

3:44p – As I put the girls down for their nap, my thoughts skip ahead to this evening when I’m scheduled to teach a one-on-one English course. My thoughts abruptly stop skipping and slump to the ground in passive aggressive gloom. For one thing, my special vacation-edition sinus infection rose from the grave only hours ago, scaring all forms of energy and intelligence into hiding. For another thing, I’ve worked every single evening this week and am progressing from the Denial stage of mother-guilt to the Weepy. Plus, my intuition is gently insistent about me needing a break.

3:45p – On the other hand, my brain chides, my paycheck this month could use a little fattening. It hardly makes sense to pinch pennies at the grocery store if I’m going to go around canceling work hours, and what if my student is really counting on this lesson? I can’t just avoid my job on a whim; freelancing doesn’t work if you’re not responsible enough to actually, you know, work.

3:46p – I fall back on the old standby:

Pros and Cons

3:49p – Things get a little heated:

Pros and Cons fighting

3:52p – I fall on the other old standby: rocking in a corner with my thumb in my mouth until the need for responsible decision-making magically disappears.

3:53p – It doesn’t.

3:54p – I contemplate checking myself in to a mental institution to get help for my blossoming schizophrenia… but mostly to avoid deciding anything about this evening.

3:55p – Crickets chirp unhelpfully.

3:56p – My student calls and cancels our lesson.

3:57p – I dust off my hands with the satisfaction of a competent, professional adult and the reward of yet another decision well made.



Eclipse LIVE!

Disclaimer #1: As much as it hurts the English major in me to do so, I have to admit that I like the Twilight books. True, they are the literary opposite of Hemingway, but sometimes a girl just wants to curl up and devour 500 delicious pages of sap. That said, the first two films convinced me that the entire cast had missed the bus to the World Poker Tour and was taking its collective lack of expression out on teenage girls everywhere.

Disclaimer #2: Nothing else terribly appealing was showing in the theater yesterday. Not that “Eclipse” was a strong contender, but I wasn’t in the mood for big explosions or family dramas. Process of elimination + expiring movie coupons + the girls at a babysitter’s + a too-filling lunch that precluded the possibility of a dinner date = me with red cheeks whispering into the ticket window that I would like two for the 8:00 showing please.

Disclaimer #3: Dan and I brought a bag of M&Ms into the theater with us to turn the cinematic torture into a kind of drinking game: one M&M each time an actor said a line without any emotion whatsoever, two each time a girl in the audience squealed, three each time a glaring plot hole presented itself, and four each instance of gratuitous shirtlessness.

Disclaimer #4: I would like to apologize to my longsuffering husband, my remaining scraps of dignity, and teenage girls everywhere.

Disclaimer #5: This live blog is 100% organic and spoiler-free.

8:19p – The lights dim. The music starts. We ready our bag of candy.

8:23p – We realize our plan is shot. The lively inflection in the Italian dubbing raises the quality of acting so much that the movie is actually watchable.

10:15p – The movie ends. Dan is disappointed that a certain lead female character wasn’t killed off, and I am disappointed that the hilarious awfulness in which I planned to revel failed to materialize.

10:16p – We go out to dinner after all.


Super Mario Bros. LIVE!

Mario: “It’s-a party time!”

Luigi: “Awesome. Hey look, Goombas!”

::Luigi dies::

Mario: “Uh… Luigi? You know Goombas are one of the unfriendlier species, right? I mean, you can keep trying to shake their hands if you want, but they will continue beating you to death.”

Luigi: “Yeah, yeah. It’s just—”

::Luigi dies::

Mario: “Try jumping on their heads, like so.”

Luigi: “Okee-dokee.”

Mario: “Seriously, Luigi? This is my head. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Please get off now.”

Luigi: “Sorry, bro.”

Mario: “Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow. Ow.”

Luigi: “As long as I’m up here, feel free to direct all blame toward the woman holding the Wii remote.”

Mario: “Ah. There did seem to be higher-than-average levels of ineptitude, even for you.”

Luigi: “Thanks. Oh, see? You can have your precious head back while I go retrieve the coin in between those Piranha Plants up there.”

Mario: “Are you sure? Isn’t that a little risk—”

::Luigi dies::

Luigi: “Man, those head-devouring flowers pack a sting! Take two.”

::Luigi dies::

Mario: “Not to sound like a broken record or anything, but are you sure a single coin is worth risking your life over? I mean, one coin gets us, like, half a lick of a mushroom… if the Toad in charge is not PMS-ing for once.”

Luigi: “Take three, wheee!”

::Luigi dies::

Mario: “You might want to try jumping over the plant next time.”

Luigi: “Right on. Take four!”

::Luigi dies::

Mario: “Arrrggghh.”

Luigi: “I’m sensing some repressed rage over there. Wanna take it out on that angel over there?”

Mario: “You mean the flying turtle? Sometimes I’m pretty confident Mom dropped you on your head a time or two.”

::Luigi dies::

Mario: “Or two thousand.”

Luigi: “Hey angel! Yeah, you, punk! You wanna piece of me? Well check out this move—”

::Luigi dies::

Mario: “Have you considered not-dying as a viable option for this game? You seem to be having fun and all, but Bowser’s up ahead waiting to cream us and I could use some help.”

Luigi: “Oh yeah, of course. Hey look, a shortcut!”

Mario: “Wait! That’s quicksan—”

::Luigi dies::

Mario: “On second thought, maybe I don’t need the help.”

Mario: “Luigi?”

Mario: “Luigi?”

Bethany: “Hey, where did Luigi go?”

Dan: “You ran him into the quicksand with only one life left.”

Bethany: “And…?”

Dan: “He died.”

Bethany: “So…?”

Mario: “I’m screwed.”

Dan: “Yeah, pretty much.”

Bethany: “Who wants to play again?”


Hurling Semifinal LIVE!

As we ate our dinner in a huddle next to our ferociously windy Dublin campsite last night, a neighbor came over to talk to us.

“So you’re going to Limerick tomorrow, are you?” he asked. “Just make sure you arrive early enough to watch the hurling match.”

“Ah yes,” we said. “Thanks for reminding us,” we said. “Just one little thing, though… What is hurling?”

“Why, it’s the island’s favorite sport!” he answered. “You’ll be wanting to see it, though beware of taking the little ones outside if Limerick loses.”

We took his advice to heart, watching the televised match from the safety of our hotel room this afternoon. And just because you’ve always wanted to know about the ancient Gaelic sport of hurling (as seen by an athletically-challenged American who hadn’t even heard the word 24 hours ago), I’ve taken the liberty of narrating the match for you. Grab a room temperature Guinness, and we’ll begin.


3:29p – A girl leads the crowd in a patriotic song, while the crowd cheers and beats wooden drums. The camera keeps filming close-ups of the players’ backsides in their very short shorts.

3:30p – Exactly half an hour late, the game begins. The sport looks like something that Happy Gilmore would have invented, had he been comfortable in very short shorts—a cross between baseball, field hockey, and fight club. Players in green (Limerick) are whacking with hurleys (bats) at the sliotar (ball)… but mostly whacking the players in blue (Tipperary) who are trying to kick, throw, catch, and possibly bite the ball.

3:33p – My attempts to understand the announcer are 94% useless, even though I’m fairly sure we speak the same language.

3:35p – Natalie about the Limerick player in control of the ball: “I think he is trying to not win.” Lo and behold, she is right, as Tipperary scores.

3:38p – Someone has scored something by hitting the ball somewhere, and it counts as points rather than as a goal, and are you confused yet?

3:39p – Natalie is also having trouble understanding the announcer: “Does the TV have the hiccups?”

3:40p – Limerick just scored a point (remember, different from a goal) by passing the ball through the posts above the goal. Or possibly by whacking the other players across the seat of their very short shorts enough times.

3:44p – Several of the players seem to have the ball confused with other players’ heads.

3:45p – Tipperary scores its second goal! Limerick’s keeper (goalie) looks mildly displeased.

3:47p – Tipperary scores its third goal! The blue part of the crowd surges in cheers, and I realize one can clearly spot the players’ underwear in slow-motion.

3:50p – Two opposing players attempt to decapitate the other, which I suspect is against the rules. (Natalie to the TV: “You are not obeying, actually.”)

3:53p – A player shoves the referee, “letting his feelings be known” as the announcer genially remarks. The referee, however, is not so open-minded and issues the first yellow card of the game.

3:55p – Another Limerick player lets his feelings be known, and the referee in turn lets his feelings be known in the form of a second yellow card. There are many, many feelings bashing around the stadium now.

4:00p – Tipperary now has 3 goals and 8 points as opposed to Limerick’s 0 goals and 3 points, a solid and confusing lead that makes me wish I had paid more attention to Quidditch rules.

4:01p – The contrast between Irish and Italian athletes becomes clear. When an Italian player falls during a soccer match, he writhes and rolls on the ground for no less than two minutes or until the referee notices his plight. When an Irish player falls during hurling, he leaps up before the opposing team can finish trampling him, brandishes his hurley, and joins the fray until the referee calls half-time and his broken bones can be properly inspected.

4:08p – During half-time, a panel of sports commenters discusses how Limerick has an excellent chance to win the match if it only goes back in time and does less terribly during the first half. Way to strategize, guys.

4:23p – The match is back and resembling a frat house initiation ritual more every minute.

4:25p – A Tipperary player’s leg was beat out from under him, but twenty seconds with the doctor and a sip of water (or was it beer?) seem to have fixed it. Remind me never to pick a fight with an Irishman.

4:27p – Before a player bats the ball onto the field, he must plant his feet and swish his very short shorts side to side several times. I fail to see how this helps, but it certainly is amusing.

4:31p – One player has just had his hand mistaken for the ball, but it’s unlikely to happen again as his hand is now the color of a ripe pomegranate. It must hurt horrifically, as the player is actually grimacing.

4:34p – The referee is consulting on a decision with the umpires, who are wearing lab coats for no apparent reason. They rule in favor of Limerick, who promptly scores its first goal of the game. “The fans now have a new lease on life!” cheers the announcer.

4:37p – We finally find out that a goal is worth 3 points—a fact that would be good to point out to the Limerick players who have gone wide 15 successive times now.

4:41p – Three Tipperary players in a row lift up their legs in exactly the right way to let the ball through, and Limerick scores again. Something tells me that the announcer is a Limerick fan; perhaps the new octave his voice just reached?

4:44p – After respectfully giving Limerick a few minutes to celebrate, Tipperary nonchalantly scores its fourth goal.

4:47p – And then its fifth.

4:48p – Observation: Very short shorts appear greatly shorter when their wearers are lunging.

4:49p – Observation: Very short shorts appear very greatly shorter when their wearers are lying on the ground doing hamstring stretches. (Dan, who had mentioned buying a uniform as a souvenir: “Maybe I won’t get the shorts.” Me: “Thank you.”)

4:51p – Limerick fans are trailing out of the stadium like a line of green-clad Charlie Browns. “Disappointment and heartbreak,” summarizes the announcer with a little crack in his Irish brogue.

4:54p – Tipperary scores for the sixth time, and one Limerick player lies down on the ground to mourn. “This is becoming embarrassing for Limerick,” says the announcer. “Maybe we should avoid going out tonight,” say I.

4:56p – The game is starting to get violent. I mean, more violent. The hurlers are hurling for all they’re worth, and the result could potentially fill a hospital ward.

4:59p – Ten seconds before the end of overtime, a Limerick player falls down and puts on a rather Italian performance. He is given control of the ball, but time runs out and his writhing was for naught. Note to player: That only works when you have an Italianref.

5:00p – The game is over. Tipperary has soundly whooped Limerick with a score of 6-19 to 2-07. The players have turned back into the neighbors and friends that they are and have taken off their jerseys to exchange; the amount of skin on the field is half a shade away from blinding, and this more than any other part of the match makes me happy.

And that, folks, is what hurling’s all about. Well, that and very short shorts.


‘Twas the Friday Before Christmas – LIVE!

3: 49p – Coerce 3-year-old into going potty. Change 1-year-old’s diaper. Tuck both girls into bed with their favorite stuffed animals and a kiss. Resist the urge to shout “I’M FREE!!!” as you close their bedroom door.

4:01p – Turn on your favorite Christmas movie of all time, “Love Actually,” and instantly glow from the loveliness it exudes. Retrieve secret cookie recipes from vault and begin to whisk ingredients while watching Colin Firth. Feel sure Mrs. Claus never had it so good.

4:11p – Hear suspicious noise from girls’ room. Pause movie.

4:12p – Discover 1-year-old has managed to turn on the bedroom lights and is sitting in the Lego bin. Put her back to bed. Stuffed animals, kisses, etc.

4:15p – Restart movie and whip butter as light and fluffy as your heart currently feels. Think jolly thoughts. Occasionally swipe a handful teensy taste of cookie dough.

4:26p – Hear suspicious noise from girls’ room. Turn off mixer. Pause movie.

4:27p – Discover 1-year-old sitting in a pile of books, rapturously tearing out pages. Put her back to bed with stuffed animals and admonishments. Pretend not to notice her springing up as you shut the door.

4:30p – Restart movie. Line baking sheets with parchment paper, roll cookies, and deposit in the oven. Sit down to start on secret sparkly elf tasks.

4:39p – Hear suspicious noise from girls’ room. Pause movie. Think bad words.

4:40p – Discover 1-year-old halfway up the ladder to her sister’s bunk bed. (Sister is giggling uncontrollably and egging her on.) Tuck her back in bed with mild threats.

4:43p – Restart movie. Have a hard time concentrating on elfin responsibilities with all the crashes and shouts of glee coming from the girls’ room. Remove first of 400 batches of Christmas cookies from the oven.

4:51p – Can no longer ignore the sounds of merriment issuing from the girls’ room. Pause movie. Say bad words.

4:52p – Discover 3-year-old hanging off the top bunk and 1-year-old dancing a jig on top of her toy dumptruck. Notice a decidedly un-festive odor surrounding her. Escort 3-year-old to the potty and change 1-year-old’s diaper. Identify with the Grinch. Strongly.

4:58p – Duct-tape 1-year-old into bed. Agree to let 3-year-old, who says she is not tired, not at all tired, in fact she has never been less tired, can’t she stay up, pleeeeeeaaaase? play quietly on the living room floor amidst the remnants of your Christmas spirit.

5:01p – Eject movie. Retrieve sense of humor. Turn on holly-jolly dancing tunes and bake the remaining 399 batches of cookies with the sweetest (and most talkative!) 3-year-old helper this side of the North Pole. Dream up Christmas goodies for favorite husband and daughters and know with certainty that Mrs. Claus never had it so good.


On The Topic Of Cleavage LIVE!

I was sludging through the dishes tonight when a game show, “Ciao Darwin: The Missing Link,” came on. And even though I so wanted to finish the dishes, I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to live-blog a real Italian game show for you. It is an experience not to be missed. [Warning: If you are offended by cleavage, bothered by cleavage, insecure in your own cleavage, or adverse in any way to the topic of cleavage, you might want to stop here.]

So. By way of comparison, Italian game shows are very similar to nothing else on earth. Okay, maybe a violent sneeze draped in wet paint superimposed over a train wreck of french-fried cleavage.

Tonight’s theme was Micro vs. Macro. Contestants were chosen from a group of short/small people and a group with larger features—height, width, and in one man’s case, a Santa Clause handlebar beard stretching like whiskery wings past his shoulders. When I started watching, the Micro contestant was a mid-pubescent boy and his rival was a woman whose chestal region provided her Macro status.




10:16p – The contestants are led to a stage full of showgirls dancing in tie-dye bikinis, mini-skirts, bell-bottoms, and leather headbands. Half of the world’s total cleavage is present and being zoomed in upon by the cameras. Disco music is blazing, and the contestants must guess the decade being depicted.
Micro: “Uh…” (He may be unclear as to the term “decade,” being born in such a recent one.) “60s?”
The host, a boisterous middle-aged man already having a great time: “NO! MACRO!”
Macro: (Adjusting her cleavage) “90s?”
The host: “NO! MICRO!”
Micro: “Uh, 80s?”
The host: “NO!” He is thoroughly enjoying himself. “MACRO!”
Macro: (Giggling) “40s?”
The host: “NO! MICRO!”
Micro: “50s?”
The host: “NO!”

10:17p – Clearly, the contestants are screwed now, as all the possible decades in all the annals of history have already been guessed. The host seems prepared for this possibility and gives them hints until someone finally shouts “70s!!” To celebrate the triumph of reason, showgirls dance.

10:18p – On to the next task! The contestants race to get into a sack with a hippie (get it?) and then bob for apples. Macro’s cleavage keeps getting in the way, so she just cheats. Micro wins anyway.

10:19p – The camera zooms in on several prominent instances of cleavage.

10:20p – Now, the contestants must identify the band shown in a black-and-white clip playing “Can’t Buy Me Love.” Micro guesses “The Rolling Stones.” Macro is slightly closer: “The Beachies?”

10:21p – Once they have narrowed the band down to the Beatles, the contestants must list the band members. Oh boy.
Micro: (Voice cracking from excitement) “John Lennon!”
The crowd goes wild, but their enthusiasm is short-lived as both contestants have already given up on the rest.
The host, always helpful: “Paul…”
Macro: “Paul Cruise!”
The host, helpfully cracking up: “Or maybe you’ve heard of Ringo…”
Macro: “Ringo Rosto!”
The host: “Or what about George…”
Micro: “George… Clooney!”
The host, composing himself: “No, not Clooney, no. Here’s a hint: Harrison Ford.”
Macro: “OH! George Ford!”

10:22p – Cleavage!

10:23p – They begin to play a hippie hybrid of musical chairs and hot potato: when the music stops, they have to drink a beer that has been shaken with great vigor (and detailed camera angles) by the busty showgirls. Macro steals Micro’s beer, but he gets the point anyway.

10:26p – Micro, resplendent in a 4-foot-high afro wig, sings the worst rendeition of “Yesterday” that has ever been butchered by an adolescent male. Half of the audience sustains internal injuries from laughing.

10:27p – A group of cleavage and its owners prance to Macro’s version of “Yellow Submarine,” which greatly resembles the call of a horny sea lion.

10:29p – The camera zooms up under multiple mini-skirts as the showgirls dance Saturday Night Fever style; for the moment, cleavage is forgotten.

10:30p – That moment is past. Viva la cleavage!

10:31p – The contestants have to bounce across the stage on those giant rubber balls that people occasionally buy when suffering from delusions of fitness. Macro’s pops immediately under the weight of her cleavage.

Ciao Darwin 2

10:32p – Cleavage!

10:33p – Cleavage!

10:33p and 20 seconds – Cleavage!

10:34p – Macro’s rubber ball pops. AGAIN. The host remarks, “I wouldn’t want to be the guy under you!”

10:35p – The contestants must guess the title of a certain song which goes like this: “Chi sarà? Chi sarà? Chi sarà? Chi sarà?” Micro correctly guesses: “Chi sarà?”

10:36p – The contestants are now racing on razor scooters while holding guitars. Macro’s cleavage seems to be steering.

10:37p – The host: “I’m getting really tired; I need someplace to lean.” That someplace is Macro’s cleavage. Yes, seriously.

10:38p – Commercial! A couple is making out with each other and with jumbo shrimp, which is incidentally also hanging out in the wife’s cleavage. Possibly groping. If you learn anything after a year here, it’s that Italian food commercials have a lot in common with porn.

10:40p – 12:29a – I start to zone out and only catch bits and pieces of the rest of the show, which involves:

  • An air band performing Earth, Wind & Fire songs
  • Showgirls dancing to Earth, Wind & Fire songs in glittery fringed miniskirts
  • The host showing off his pet snake (I do mean that literally)
  • Showgirls dancing in lingerie, some of which includes gold sequined nursing pads
  • Female contestants in their underwear escaping from tanks of hungry eels
  • A tall/short fashion show. Of underwear.
  • A man in the audience scoping out the thong action with binoculars
  • Showgirls dancing in a conga line around the room draped in feathers
  • A ménage à trois dance routing featuring—what else? cleavage
  • Contestants locked in giant tanks which fill with water when they answer questions wrong
  • A thongskirt
  • Me falling asleep because the show was supposed to end half an hour ago
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