In Italy, right around August 1st you can practically set your clock to the day (Friday) in which every store in your orbit closes those metal shutters and heads to catch waves at the seaside or on some exotic vacation to sit out the summer heat waves. What to new arrivals or foreigners may seem quite an archaic practice, with time you begin to see the bright, sunshiny light - and you mount a countdown to the day you can walk across a street without getting mowed down, find ample parking spaces anywhere, and even get the pick of the produce without a cabal of little old ladies beating you to it first.
You ignore the traffic lights on every corner, and pay attention to those orange and green florescent signs signalling - not so subtly - that the time has come for everyone to recharge their batteries, including the car mechanics & electronic shops. But this year, something was different.
Suddenly, those signs were almost nowhere to be seen. And after a few friends commented on the change in our summer scenery, well, I thought I had to too. But those missing signs? Weren't because your hardware store or coffee shop or local pizzeria had decided to stay open for the month.
Chalk it up if you will to the "crisis" or perhaps that corner hardware stores are now few and far between (taken over by gelateria) but I believe the store owners decided to simply not spend one red penny on the once ubiquitous little signs sporting their customary beach umbrellas and the dates of closure, just to rub it in. This year, nobody but no one bought into them. And so instead of those neat little cardboard announcements, this year marked the year of the hand or computer-printed signs CLOSED FOR VACATION. On nearly every store front.
But lest you think the Italians are going the way of the Greeks, think again. While Americans like to pride themselves in their Calvinist work ethic, most other countries - even taking off the entire month - are still more productive than the USA.
And...judging by the incessant hammering, drilling, painting and plumbing of home and store remodelling taking place every summer, there's still plenty of commercial activity going on for everyone. Just don't ask the tax man about it.
As for me, I'll enjoy my tiny - almost vacant - corner of the world, speckled with outdoor concerts and outdoor movies. And just put in my ear pods to drown the din of the shop owners seemingly on vacation, but actually OPEN FOR REMODELING.