The Nice Thing About Strangers

Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.

The Impatient Italians and the Fighting Irish

Medjugorje, sunset

In Medjugorje, there’s a crowd of people entering the church, praying at the grotto, climbing steep hills in prayer. It’s a place of retreat, usually quiet, usually peaceful.

This morning there’s a long queue at the ladies’ room between Masses. Waiting in the line are speakers of many languages, but two Italian women walk right past us, ignoring the single-file suckers. They march to the front and go for the next doors that open.

Two Irish women are supposed to be next and also head toward those recently vacated stalls. One of them is younger, the other older and determined. She steps in front of the women who cut ahead, and forces her way into the stall that is rightfully hers. The Italian women begin to scream, raise their hands, make a scene–almost precisely as the church bells ring outside.  Women in line tsk-tsk, and the lady next to me says, “Italians! They never think the rules apply to them!”  Though I have met plenty of nice Italians on this trip, I have noticed many were often maneuvering in front of me in a line.

The younger Irish woman exits her stall first and hustles past the Italian women. She glances at those of us in line with a blush. The Waiting Women nod at her with encouragement and support. The older woman takes a slower approach, her head held high, knowing she did the right thing.

I catch up with the Irish women outside, feeling I must ask about their encounter. The older one laughs, “I don’t know how I turned into a fish man’s wife! I’ve been here on pilgrimage for a week and I felt so much peace. But I just couldn’t let them cut the queue.” There’s a rosy glow to her cheeks, and she seems enlivened to have stood up for all the Waiting Women.

The younger woman also smiles at compelling order on those who tried to cut ahead. “There’s a reason people wait in line. It’s only right. Especially here!” It is a marvel that anyone could be rude here, and to two women so kind and dear.

“So now,” the older woman grinned at me and leaned in close, “So now you’ve really seen the Fighting Irish.”

–Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina.

I should note that while I have blogged about some frustrating encounters with people from Italy on this trip, I also met very sweet Italian people. Still, this story had to be told with the countries of origin. It seemed mandatory. 🙂

Medjugorje, pilgrimage

21 comments on “The Impatient Italians and the Fighting Irish

  1. karlpaust
    December 6, 2013

    Reblogged this on Karl Paust.

  2. Eric Tonningsen
    December 6, 2013

    This is perfect. Having Irish and Italian in my family I will be sharing your post with several. Thanks! 🙂

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      December 6, 2013

      Thank you, Eric! The scene was a highlight for me. 🙂 I appreciate you passing it on!
      Paige

      • Eric Tonningsen
        December 8, 2013

        Following-on, a reply from my Irish cousin who married and Italian and lived in Milan for 14 years. 🙂

        Omg. So true! The Italians have such an aversion to lines. They NEVER wait in them. Used to drive me crazy.
        The worst are the old ladies. I remember one day at the post office, I had been on line for probably a half hour, looking at my watch every 5 minutes as I was late for work. I finally arrived in pole position, ready to pounce on the next available window. I just as I looked town at my watch again, an older woman hopped right out in front of me and got to the window first. My “fighting Irish” got the best of me and I loudly remarked “EXCUSE ME! But I believe I was before you!” She turned to me and said “oh! I am TERRIBLY sorry, of COURSE you were” and she took a step back. She won, of course. I held my ground and went first, but she made me look like a worm. I walked out and people shook their heads at me, and of course, the old woman got the next available agent, even though she had cut the whole line. It’s an art.

      • thenicethingaboutstrangers
        December 9, 2013

        🙂 This is great. It’s nice to know when I am not alone in some of my findings.
        I have found that my generally hospitable nature lets people cut ahead, and I have to learn to assert myself. Usually, it’s not worth the battle, as your cousin reports! Hehe.

        At baggage claim, I’ve noticed that I also need to get in there and demand my foot of space.
        https://thenicethingaboutstrangers.com/2012/07/23/i-pick-things-up-and-put-them-down/

        Thanks so much, Eric! I hope your family enjoyed the story. I appreciate you passing it on.

  3. Expat Eye
    December 7, 2013

    Ha ha! Yes, it’s the law. Never get in the way of an Irish woman who needs to pee! You won’t win 😉

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      December 7, 2013

      Hi Linda:
      Apparently not! Even when she was in a state of grace! I’ve learned a lot on my travels. 🙂
      Paige

  4. Gina left the mall
    December 7, 2013

    I am part Italian so I’m saying this with love–when I visited Italy, the same thing happened to me. I’d be on a ladies room line in a crowded restaurant and one or two women (the same women?) would simply cut ahead as if no one else were there. Perhaps if I were also part Irish, a quicker solution would have come to me 🙂

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      December 7, 2013

      Hi Gina:
      I’ve found that you have to assert your place in line when on the road. One thing I always appreciate when I get back to Colorado is the respect for single-file lines. 😀
      Paige

  5. renxkyoko
    December 7, 2013

    Oh, no ! That happened to us , too ! All the while , I just thought maybe it had something to do with how we looked… although we were American tourists, we looked Asians. I’m a bit relieved now that it didn’t have anything to do with race.

  6. LaVagabonde
    December 7, 2013

    Anytime I’m waiting in line and hear Italian, I brace myself for a showdown. I don’t let them get away with it, either. 😉 Cutting in line shows such a lack of class.

  7. Nia Simone
    January 3, 2014

    Great story. Now I’m mentally prepared to defend my place in line! Well… maybe. I hate confrontation.

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      January 4, 2014

      Oh boy, I do too. I learned to give it a try, at least, in nothing else for the experiment in assertiveness. I still had to be expected to lose. When I am in the States, I delight in single-file lines. Now I know what to appreciate. 😀
      Thanks, Nia!
      Paige

      • Nia Simone
        January 4, 2014

        I know what you mean! I noticed in Amsterdam, the locals crowd at the bus. I heard some English visitors to the Keukenhoff Gardens say the Netherlanders don’t know how to “queue”. I think the English are especially good at it.

  8. Nia Simone
    January 5, 2014

    Nominating you for Sisterhood of the World, my dear. Will post in about 30 minutes.

  9. Pingback: One year blog anniversary and Sisterhood of the World Blog award | Nia Simone, Author

  10. johnhesketh7
    January 16, 2014

    Medjugorje is one of my favorite places. Did you enjoy it? Would you go back?

    • thenicethingaboutstrangers
      January 16, 2014

      Hi John,
      Bosnia is one of my favorite countries that I have visited, though on my first trips I didn’t know about or get to Medjugorje. I was there a few days this fall and I found it a very peaceful place. It was refreshing to see how many people arrive for Mass, how many walk down the street praying the Rosary. I really enjoyed that. I also went to Reconciliation with an awesome priest. I think regardless of whether the apparitions are official, the faith of the people who come seems very real.

      Have you gone several times? What did you enjoy the most? It was a great place to get stories for the blog, I must say! I have about 10 stories from that trip. 🙂
      All my best,
      Paige

  11. oualdeaux
    March 5, 2014

    Great post Paige. It reminded me of an experience in Japan. I was taking the bus from Kami Seya to Yokohama, and as I had boarded at an early stage of the run, there was plenty of room for all to sit. As the bus progressed it became SRO. I noticed a very tired looking pregnant lady burdened with baggage. I immediately rose to offer my seat, but before she could move a Japanese gentleman leaped to the spot. All of my glowering, and abusive comments were to no avail. He just ignored me. But the worst part was a glance at the lady to see her expression of shock and shame at me. That just wasn’t done! (as my British friends say.) luckily, my stop came, and I departed, happy to have avoided an international incident and glad to be Irish. 🙂

  12. Reblogged this on The Nice Thing About Strangers and commented:

    Here’s a favorite moment from my travels…

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