Please! You Geeve Me Money Meester!

Paul Theroux’ book “The Pillars of Hercules” has been by my bedside for months. I picked it up again this morning and read this passage about the author’s descent from a ferryboat from Bari Italy, to Durres, Albania.

“Knowing so little in advance, I had mentally prepared myself for anything in Albania, but even so I was shocked by Durres. My first sight, as I walked off the ship, was of a mob of ragged people, half of them beggars, the rest of them tearful relatives of the passengers, all of them howling.

It was hysteria, and dirt and dogs and heat, but what alarmed me most were the people snatching at me. No one elsewhere on my trip had noticed me. I was so anonymous I felt I was invisible wherever I went. No one had ever touched me. Here they pounced. They took hold of my hand, tugged at my shirt, fingered my pen. “Signor!” “Money!” “Soldi” “Please! You geeve me!” “Meester!”

They fastened themselves to me, pleading, I could not brush them aside–they were truly ruined. They looked hysterical, they were poor, ravaged, bumpy faced with pox scars–mothers with children, blind men with boys, old hectoring crones, all of them plucking at me. “Geeve me theese!”

Third World, I thought, but it was the only third world scene I had ever witnessed that was entirely populated by Europeans–the most dissolute and desperate and poverty-stricken and rapacious, lunging at me, following just behind me, demanding money.”