Buzz. Buzz. Someone is at the front door wanting to be let in. It’s the tenth time today and it’s not even noon. And we already know that it’s not for us.
Three years ago, N’s brother converted the attic story of our house into an apartment that he and his family use on weekends and holidays, and for parties. The workers that he hired were lazy and incompetent; they accidentally punched holes in our ceilings and walls and then balked at having to fill them in, they refused to chase any of the pipes that they ran down the house’s façade, and they even broke down the wall of our garden because they didn’t like that the entrance was two meters from where they wanted to throw debris down from the terrace.
I could recount ever more absurd tales about these workers, but this post is about the intercom, so it will suffice to say that N’s brother couldn’t be bothered to come to Sessa to follow the work himself, that he gave the workers free rein to do what is most accurately described as a half-ass job, and that he never wanted to hear about all the problems that they caused us. It’s important to mention all of this so that despite the absurdity of it, you will find it believable that someone who invites all sorts of people to all sorts of events at his house has never seen the need to install his own intercom.
You may be wondering about the impracticality of it. How does he know if one of his guests is at the door? Well, he doesn’t. But we do, because we’re the ones with the intercom. Whenever anyone comes to visit him, they buzz it. And whenever N’s brother is at the door, he buzzes it. Because it’s so much easier than getting your keys out of your pocket, you know?
“Maledizioni” N shouts as he stomps through the kitchen toward the intercom. “I have to talk to my brother about this!” He picks up the receiver and unlocks the front door without asking who it is.
“Do you think he will ever install his own?” I ask. “He seems to be getting on just fine without one.“
“We will have to disconnect the intercom!”
Alarmed, I ask, “but what about the mail?”
“You know, we could just not answer.”
“That would be bad manners.”
Oh, THAT would be bad manners. I’m about to argue that there’s really no difference between purposefully disconnecting the intercom and deciding not to answer it, but then I remember the ocean of cultural difference between us, and I realize that, when considered in the context of brutta figura, one really is much worse than the other. And so the question of the intercom is left unresolved.
About an hour later, we hear another buzz. N walks into the kitchen, where his mother and I are preparing lunch, and stops about a meter short of the intercom.
“Are you going to answer that?” I ask him.
“Yes, but I’m making them wait!”
I’ve employed this strategy myself. It is completely ineffective because the person at the door doesn’t know the reason for the delay, but it does provide some satisfaction.
N’s mother, who is hard of hearing, asks, “Did anyone hear the intercom?”
“Yes,” N tells her. She walks across the room to the intercom and unlocks the door for the unknown visitor.
So much for that.
After lunch, N’s mother takes Pata upstairs to play with her cousins and N and I are left with the strange sensation of being alone. Not sure what to do, and being creatures of habit, N turns on the television and I start cleaning the kitchen.
I ask N, “do you think they know that it’s OUR intercom?”
“Of course,” he says.
“Well, maybe we should make it weigh on them.” I go out onto the terrace, intending to make a big show of asking who it is and telling them how pleased I am that they’ve come to visit us. Looking down into the street, I see N’s cousin Antò waiting on the doorstep. I’m certain that he’s here for N’s brother, but I also know that he will stop in for a visit on his way upstairs. He is one of the very few people who acknowledge that we’re the ones who open the door. There’s no sense in making him feel awkward about buzzing our intercom.
A little while later, there’s another buzz. This time I open the screen door quietly and take just a step onto the terrace, enough to see who’s at the door without being noticed. It’s N’s brother.
“It’s your brother,” I tell N. I walk over to the door and listen for the sound of footsteps on the stairs. As soon as I hear it, I pick up the intercom receiver and unlock the door, forcing him to turn around and close it again. I snicker.
Later in the day, while N is napping in the bedroom, I hear another buzz. This time I decide not to answer the intercom. Listening at the door, I hear the voices of N’s mother and the aunt rising in the stairwell. I’ve just taught a lesson to the wrong people.
I give up. Come summer, we’re disconnecting the intercom.