Augusta’s Morning News with John Patrick, Mary Liz Nolan, and Chris Michaels

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My father loved to tell this story.

He told it until the day he died.

He was a civil servant.  He was an engineer, he worked on the polaris missile systems on nuclear submarines.

We lived in Norfolk, Virginia, where there were a lot of nuclear submarines.  But occasionally, there was travel involved.

One year, he, and a bunch of his peers needed to travel to Italy to work on a submarine stationed there.

As he would tell the story, the days were long, with very little opportunity to experience that beautiful country.

By the middle of the first week, they had all decided that on the weekend, they were going to pile into a car, head for the Italian countryside, find a nice, little restaurant, enjoy the wine, the pasta and the surroundings.

After about two hours on the road on that first Saturday, there it was, like out of a Sophia Loren movie, the small, intimate spot they were hoping to find.

The moment they walked in, the place started buzzing.  They figured “tourists”, “Americans”.  They figured neither were seen very often.

The staff couldn’t have been nicer or more attentive.  The place was loud, just what they wanted.  The food was incredible, just what they wanted.  The wine, plentiful, just what they wanted.

After a couple of hours, it was time to head back to the city.  Time to settle up.

No one appeared with the bill.  All of a sudden, the attentive staff was no where to be found.  One of the members of the party got up and tried to find the owner.  No success.  They then began to ask if anyone in the restaurant understood and spoke English.  One older gentleman raised his hand. He spoke “broken English”. They proceeded to explain that they were ready to leave and wanted to settle up.  They had plenty of lira (pre-pounds) and just wanted to take care of the bill.  They asked the gentleman if he could locate the owner and explain to him.

The gentleman found the owner, began a conversation which in the eyes of my father and the party seemed to end quickly….but well.

The gentleman returned to my father’s table.  He then, in his “broken English” and looking directly at my father informed him and the table “Mr. Hitchcock, you do not have to pay”  “It’s been our pleasure to have you in our small village and at our humble restaurant”.  They thought my father was Alfred Hitchcock.  Everyone at the table, just looked at each other, each able to hold in their laughter, but discussing how they were going to  handle the situation.  It was determined that they would not want to insult their host by telling him the truth.  They decided to politely thank their host and all of the diners and make their way back to the car and back to the city.

What choice did we have? He would say when telling the story.

He also said, he was so thankful that no one had a camera and suggested a photo.  He couldn’t have lived knowing this poor restaurateur, after years of showing everyone his photo with “Hitch” would one day run into someone that would say, “I don’t know who that is, but it’s not Alfred Hitchcock”.

He was also very thankful, that there was never a return visit to Italy.

I lost my father in 1977.  He must have told that story a hundred times.  I tell it whenever I can.

Happy Father Day.