Apparently you have to play a game of Charades and Pictionary.
On my Euro trip to Italy, my parents insisted I translate for them because I took foreign languages in high school.
Me: "Dad, I took espanol in school."
Padre: "Exactly. Now use some of that in Italy."
Me: "Do you even know what espanol means?"
Padre: "I don't care. Your mom and I provided you with an American education, so you will translate for us in Italy."
Me: "Si senor, yo quiero una cerveza" (For those non-espanol speaking people, this translates to: "Yes sir, I want a beer.")
Padre: "Great. We're counting on you."
There is no point in arguing with the parental units. No point.
Anyway, we made it to Italy, and enjoyed a beautiful day walking around the beautiful city of Roma. Eventually, we found a nice little cafe out of the touristy areas of Rome and sat down for food and drinks. We were very thirsty from basking in the hot Roman sun all day.
A friendly waiter came up to take our orders. Since I was the language expert, I proceeded to order some water first. Luckily, I did happen to know the Italian word for water - acqua. The waiter seemed to understand me and disappeared into the kitchen. A few minutes later, he came back with a tall green bottle of S.Pellegrino. Italians love to drink sparkling water.
I poured the parental units a glass each, only for my padre to spray it out in disgust.
Padre: "Ugh. I don't want sparkling water. Can you get us some regular water? Your madre and I are going to the restroom. Get some regular water before we get back."
I called the waiter back and decided to just ask him politely in English.
"Hi, can we just get some non-sparkling water?" I said.
Waiter: No response.
"Uhhhh, you know, water with no bubbles?" I tried again.
Waiter: No response. Awkward silence.
It was now obvious he didn't speak English. I decided to take this conversation back to the basics. I pointed to the bottle of S.Pellegrino and shook my head.
"No Pellegrino. I want normal acqua," I said hopefully. Maybe the waiter understands Italish.
"Signore, questa è l'acqua," replied the waiter.
"Uh, yes, acqua. No Pellegrino. Acqua." I repeated, not understanding a single word.
Waiter: No response. Awkward silence. Look of bemusement.
I decided to try the other standard approach of trying to get the waiter to understand me.
"I WANT NOOOOORRRRRMAL WATER. NOOOOOORRRRRMAL ACQUA," I said slowly and loudly. I don't know why, but when faced with someone who does not understand us, we, humans, will simply treat the person as if he/she was deaf, and will repeat our statements louder and slower, as if that would solve the problem.
Waiter: No response. Awkward silence. Look of bemusement replaced by look of WTH.
I was starting to panic because the parental units were going to come back soon. Thus, I resorted to a more rudimentary form of human communication: Charades.
Two fingers, two words.
"No sparkling," I said earnestly, accompanied by jazz hands.
Waiter: No response. Awkward silence. WTF + You're crazy face.
"No? Not getting it?" I mumbled to myself, trying rack my brain for another way to act out no bubbles. That's it! The word sparkling might not translate in Italian to still water.
Two fingers, two words.
"No bubbles," I said again. This time, I pantomimed bubbles with the opening and closing of my fist accentuated with the opening and closing of my mouth like a goldfish.
Waiter: Slowly backs away.
Clearly Italians don't know how to play charades. Or I have no acting skills for sparkling/bubbles.
So stupid. So stupid.
"OK, THAT'S IT!!! TAKE THIS TO YOUR MANAGER!!!" I shouted as I pulled out a sharpie and sketched the universal sign for non-sparkling water:
Waiter: Takes picture and backs away. Look of bemusement turns into look of amusement.
He takes the napkin with my artwork on it and returns to the kitchen. Finally, he returns with a bottle of water, non-sparkling.
I'm pretty sure the waiter spoke English, and just wanted to see me work for it. Sigh. I sure did. Anyway, next time you're in Italy, make sure you know how to play Pictionary! And have a sharpie with you just in case. A picture is worth a thousand words.