I am the specialist. Flown to Milan to make use of a very particular set of skills. Skills that I’ve acquired over a long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people who want to fail biology exams.
I load some pristine textbooks into a briefcase, adjust my tie in the mirror and am taken to first class. I sit down by the window with a glass of whiskey, not shaken or stirred, and look pensively into the surrounding clouds. I plan for the storm that brews in the distance.
Yes, you can’t help but feel quite the special-ops badboy when you’re tutoring skills are requested across the globe. However the reality inevitably differs from such glamorous fantasies, and instead of whiskey and fancy briefcases, I find myself snivelling and flu-stricken, snotting all over the economy class of an easyjet flight.
Before boarding a woman warns me of the Italians. She says Milan’s a complete culture shock, and she suggests Italy to be a place more different to what I may have originally thought. But she is really lame. New-Zealndish. Presumably from a town with more sheep than people, and I hence presume further that perhaps she was just culturally shocked by the lack of sheep. We chat as we begin to board the plane and she tells me about some left-field nonsense that she is studying at university to do with alternative education. I studied good ol’ cold, hard science so have no time for this shit. I certainly won’t put up with it for a whole flight. I just have to do the awkward thing of not sitting next to her when she sits down and instead carrying on walking past her in silence. Cold, hard silence.
My introduction to Italians does however turn out to be quite startling. I step out of the airport door and begin to unpack my bike from its travel box and put it back together. I attempt to do this for all of two minutes before a fat, short, dark and hairy Italian physically pushes me off it, shouting ‘Che cosa fai?! Allora, Cosi!’. He then starts moving with surprising energy for a fatman, wrenching this, twiring that, screwing in something else, the whole while banging on about his famiglia and their cento anni storia con le bici. He does it all in the sweltering sun in his suit without getting a single greasy blemish on it. His seven other friends in suits, perhaps all bus drivers, stand around him in a circle all shouting in Italian how better to do what he is doing, then occassionly saying something about me and laughing. It doesn’t bother me. Being laughed at by Italians is something I always knew I’d signed up for.