52 The Biker Bullies

The Truckie, the Tamil and the Teacher.

Paolo needed to improve his English so as to be able to carry on his work as a truck driver in Australia. I made up a conversation group with him and Kodees, a Tamil refugee at Strathfield Community Centre. After hearing Paolo speak, I realised my knowledge of cinematic Italian American English would provide a bridge to communication. We were interested in finding out about his work and experiences in this area.

‘iamo – let’s go!’ I declared.

‘You must have interesting stories to tell about this, Paolo. About you and others.’

‘About much others.’

‘Paolo, much means ‘a lot of’. ‘Many means ‘a large number of.’

‘I always get these mixed up. Thanks for explaining it to me. It means a lot.’

‘Could you tell us some of your stories?’

‘Now where can I start?’ he asked, scratching his head.

‘O.K. What kind of goods did you carry?’

‘All kinds of stuff you name it, I’ve carried it. Cement, tiles, food et cetera.’

‘What were some of your most interesting assignments?’

‘Well, there was the time I was pushing this 18-wheeler along the Autostrada. At every red light, I had to get out of my cabin, run back and bang on the truck door. Other motorists were very puzzled to see me doing this. Can you guess what I had on board?’

Neither Kodees nor I could guess what he was carrying.

‘I give up,’ I said.

‘Me too’, said Kodees.

‘I had twenty tonnes of budgerigars and a ten tonne limit, so I had to keep half of them flying at all times.”

‘Minch’ – wow! You have to be aware of the cargo’s weight. Did you ever carry any heavier loads than this aviary?’

‘I did. You won’t believe what it was. Neither did the police.’

‘Was it an elephant?’ asked Kodees.

‘Listen. One day I was heading along the road. A sign came up that read “Low Bridge Ahead”’. I didn’t see any police so I drove on. Before I knew it, the bridge was right ahead of me and muggins me got stuck under it. This was a real pain in the—.

‘Pain in the neck’, I added discreetly. ‘A real scorchamend’.

I-malano-miau! – I couldn’t believe it! Cars were backed up for miles.

Finally, a carload of carabinieri pulled up. One cop got out of his car and walked around to me put, his hands on his hips and said, ‘What is this? Ma che quest’? Got stuck huh?”

“No, I was delivering this bridge and ran out of diesel.”

‘You always have to calculate how much space you have before you drive under bridges and through tunnels,’ I said.

What about dangerous cargo?’ Did you ever carry anything more dangerous than a load of buzzing budgies?’.

‘Yes. radioactive waste. I used to deliver it for the local reactor.’

‘That sounds risky.’

‘Si. Molto pericoloso. Como se dice—dangerous. This stuff is disgust—‘

‘–disgusting. Schifozz’.

‘This stuff is disgusting.’

‘Did it affect your health?’

Maronna mia! Oh my God! I began to be taken sick after some time on the job.’

‘When did you first notice the effects?’

‘My wife said to me in bed, please dear, turn off the night light.’

‘I replied, ‘We don’t have a night light’.’

‘What did you do about it?’

‘I decided to seek compensation for this ailment. Upon my arrival at the workers’ compensation department, I was interviewed by an assessor. He said: ‘I see you work with radio-active materials and wish to claim compensation.’

‘Indeed, I feel really sick.’

‘What do your employers have to say about their responsibility?’

‘They say, ‘How do you know? What you can’t see, can’t hurt you.’

‘It’s easy to say that.’

’That’s what my colleague was led to believe. He died of radiation poisoning a few months back’

‘Alright then, is your employer taking measures now to protect you from radiation poisoning?

‘Yes, they give me a lead suit to wear on the job.’

‘ And what about the cabin in which you drive?’

‘That’s lead lined, all lead lined.’

‘What about the waste itself? Where is that kept?’

‘The stuff is held in a lead container, all lead.’

‘Let me see if I get this straight. You wear a lead suit, sit in a lead-lined cabin and the radio-active waste is kept in a lead container.’

‘That’s right. All lead.’

‘Then I can’t see how you could claim against him for radiation poisoning.’

‘I’m not. I’m claiming for lead poisoning.’

‘Truck driving is really is dangerous, Paolo. Did you ever have any accidents?’

‘Once I crashed the tanker I was driving. I spilled its load onto the motorway. The police stopped all oncoming vehicles and warned the drivers to stick to the inside lane.’

What were you carrying?

‘A consignment of glue.’

‘Some people have the wrong idea of truck drivers. Have you had any trouble on account of this?’

‘You come across all kinds of people out on the road. Once I was sitting down in a small roadside cafe, at a table in a corner reserved with a grimy Campari sign. I was minding my own business, looking forward to a plate of spaghetti and a beer. As I was about to eat, three of the nastiest, meanest looking hoons, all tattoos and bad teeth, come roaring in to the parking lot.

They entered the café boisterously, taking over the tiny place. Two of them squeezed next to a woman wearing a leather jacket, eating a hamburger and drinking a milkshake. One hoon said to her rudely, ‘Make room, you silly cow!’

The capitan noticed little old me in the corner sitting opposite an old man and came over to mark the territory. Capish’?

‘I understand. He sounds like Christopher Moltisanti – someone who’ll go out of his way to make trouble. What happened next?’

He towered over the old man and said, ‘Sfigato, I’m giving you fair warning, loser. Anything you do to that chicken, I’m going to do to you.’

So the old man put down his knife and fork, picked up that chicken and kissed it.

He then turned his attention to me, looking at the seat next to me and asking ‘Is anyone sitting there, Stronzo?’

‘It doesn’t look like it, does it,’ I said laughing ’

What are ya laughin’ at? Something funny?’


‘Then don’t laugh.’

What’s the big idea?’

‘There is no idea.’

‘Sitting down, this disgraziato started giving me a hard time – he put his fingers in my pasta and slurped it into his faccia brutta, his ugly puss,’ said Paolo, screwing up his own face and pointing to it. This stupido had a face like this.

‘Faccia questa cosi!’

The waitress came over crying ‘Leave him al—

–one! Lascialui!

‘Leave him alone’. She asked ‘What the, what the—

‘What the hell are you doing? Ma che cozz’u fai?!’

‘Fatti gatti due!’he shouted, ‘mind your own f—ing business! Staizii! be quiet!

‘Then this good for nothing sc—


Then this good for nothing scumbag spat in my meal and asked ‘Are you hungry, Finook? Sesenta fame?

‘He ordered Mangi! Eat!’

‘Just like the old man, I didn’t let myself be provoked’, Paolo continued. I wanted to shout ‘Ffangul’!- go f— yourself !’ but held my tongue. I remembered what my papa told me once: ‘Never pick a fight with an ugly person, they’ve got nothing to lose.’ Soon this pazzo-idiot- got frustrated by my lack of response and dumped my spaghetti plate right on my head. I was covered with noodles and sauce was dripping down my face. I told this bad dude, this sfacimm’ I didn’t want any trouble and cleaned away the mess. The buttagot-idiot- wasn’t done trailing his leather coat– he told me I’m a ‘lily-livered cissy’ and dumped my beer right in my lap. I thought ‘watch out, you’re gonna get hurt!

‘uarda la ciunca! And then—‘

‘I jumped to my feet. The room was silent. The bikers thought they were finally going to see some action, a big schiaffo — but I just sauntered over to the cash register, settled the check and strode out the door.

‘What happened after that?’

‘What happened after that was recounted to me later by the waitress:

‘ A minute or two passed, Gagootz, and the head hoon decided to have the last word, “That guy sure isn’t much of a man!” About ten seconds of silence followed. The silence was shattered by the sound of mangled metal and the words of the waitress… “And he sure isn’t much of a driver either. He just backed his 18-wheeler over three motorcycles.’

Bada bing!’, I cried, banging my hand on the table. ‘Bam! Do you have any more stories for us? Tell us all your deeds so glowing.’

‘Un altra volta.’

‘Un ada oda’, I translated, ‘another time’.