Eric Mayne's Blog

'Don't Joke Unless You're Serious'


When my eldest daughter was about five years old, I pulled an innocent prank on her. I said she would see the cute little toga-clad mascot of the Little Caesar's pizza chain when we visited our neighborhood take-out spot.

But when she realized the ruse, she looked up at me with teary eyes and said: "Dad, don't joke unless you're serious!"

Which brings me to my last blog -- the one in which I outlined contents of the '12 Fiat 500 owner's manual.

The passages described various ways to hurl insults in Italian while driving the iconic minicar.

Absurd? Totally. Implausible? Apparently not.

Several media colleagues and counterparts (to whom I'd ascribed superior intellect) displayed shocking gullibility. They actually believed what I wrote.

Likewise, I fear, so did followers of

I suppose I should be flattered that such learned minds place so much trust in me. But the "manual" included instructions such as "climb half-way out of the driver’s side window and hold the horn down with your knee while yelling loudly, ‘Idiota!’"

Really? Would Fiat or any other auto maker in this litigious climate ever suggest such as thing? Even in jest?

In defense of one scribe who will remain nameless here, he thought Fiat was stealing a page from BMW's playbook. When the German auto maker launched the Mini, with which the 500 will compete in North America, it published an "unofficial" owner's manual that offered advice on matters such as "making out" in small confines.

The book also featured graphics (below) that demonstrated proper waving technique.

Clearly a joke. And, for the record, so was my last blog.

Admittedly based on a stereotype, no malice was intended. From my perspective, no nation matches Italy's rich culture. My wife's family, to which I'm deeply devoted, proudly traces their roots to the wine country north of Venice.

So, a final note to Fiat 500 buyers: Do NOT beep your horns randomly until you reach your destinations. And resist the urge to yell "testa dura" (hard-head) at other motorists.

What have I learned from this experience? That my fellow journalists regard me with integrity. Or they think I'm completely humorless.

Either way, I think I'll heed my daughter's admonition: Don't joke unless you're serious.

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