sabato 3 agosto 2013

Military Service.

Military service. Like all other Italian boys, a long time ago (a lot, really!) I swore allegiance to my country (back then it was a country that protected its citizens, with trustworthy politicians, but this is another story). Since I couldn’t stand weapons, I chose to be what was called, with a certain institutional pomposity, Conscientious Objector. Well, my conscience didn’t have anything to object, but it was probably the good choice for me, since they assigned me to firefighters. It was 1982. Italy had just won the soccer’s world championship, in Spain, and I was in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, manning a stand of an international fair that my dad’s firm attended every year. My father was the one to tell me. “You received your draft card”, he said. He was a man of few words. I had just met a girl from Rome (thanks to Claudio and Luca “nember” who introduced us). We had just begun to date when the famous “card” arrived. The place I was sent to for the CAR (the first 3-month training period) was Rome Capannelle. I’ve always considered myself lucky, and that stroke of luck just confirmed it. I arrived in Rome some days before the starting date. I settled in Laura’s apartment and we spent some days sightseeing. Must I tell you how magic Rome is? I think you already know. At the beginning of november I had to report to the barracks. I remember this crowd of young boys, of every origin and walk of life. At the time I was still enrolled in college and for this I was considered more reliable than others, and they asked me if I wanted to be a quartermaster. This just meant being in the office and decide what other guys of my squad must do. This meant that I never went on duty, I never went in the yard in the morning for the daily exercices and, mostly, I had a lot of free time allowing me to read the wonderful novel “One hundred years of solitude”, of the extraordinary Gabriel Garcia Màrquez, whom several years later I had the honour to meet in person in Bogotà, Colombia. Those three months ended in a flash, and I should have gone back to Mantova for the nine remaining months of service. Those who know me remember where I lived in Mantova at the time. From my bedroom I saw the yard of the firefighters’ station, so close it could have been my very own. So I came back to Mantova and every day I shouted: «Mum, start cooking pasta!» from the barrack’s yard. That’s what you must imagine. Too simple, I say. Thanks to Laura’s father, who did everything in his power to make me stay in Rome, I did. Allow me a reflection : the terrible earthquake in Irpinia (in Campania region) happened in those days, and many firefighters went to help the many civil victims. In my year, at CAR, there were more than 2000 romans for 1500 places in the city. And you know what? I just realized the true cause of my disease: the evil spell against me made by a Roman firefighter sent to Irpinia because of a “connected” guy from Mantova that stole his place in HIS city. Maybe it was worth it. I spent nine wonderful months in the most beautiful city on Earth, being a driver in the mornings and a tourist the rest of the time. One final thought. Doing my service with firefighters allowed me the privilege to meet a very special person. I couldn’t attend your funeral, but you know I was there. Rest in peace, Gabriele.

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