man in white

Photo credit: Hilary Hatch

We see these men (and sometimes women) in white in all the tourist towns of Italy. I don’t recall ever seeing one in the U.S. – maybe in the larger cities? Anyone ever seen one in New York or San Francisco?

The best remain absolutely motionless until someone drops a coin in the bucket. Then they slowly move in some form of acknowledgment. This man, whom we found in Lucca, was a hand-kisser. Some merely bow or regally raise a hand to say ‘thanks.’ The amateurs among them will sometimes wear a white mask, presumably so they can make faces and move at least some part of their bodies. The other day in Rapallo I saw a boy in white who had simply given up and was striding down the street thrusting his cap at people to ask for money.

It’s hard to imagine who came up with the idea of being rewarded for standing still; but it must be a good idea because a lot of people do it, and if it didn’t pay at least something they wouldn’t. I wonder if anyone would pay if the person weren’t done up to look like a white statue? Evidently some people simply can’t resist touching the statues to see if they’re real. It doesn’t always work out well, as this video from Australia illustrates.

still man

Hilary gets a handshake

margaret gets a handshake

This ‘statue’  works in Lucca, although the box he’s standing on says SPQR, which is the motto of Rome. (Senatus Populusque Romanus – the senate and people of Rome.)  While it dates from ancient Rome, it is now seen everywhere in the modern city; Speedy remembers that all the man-hole covers bear this acronym.

This man was particularly fun as he had a very pleasant expression, even while he was simply standing and waiting. It’s not a job I’d want, though; I can’t imagine standing still for any length of time, or being covered in white paint.