Strategic Temper Tantrums

Do They Ever Work?

The Art of Miscommunication!

“I don’t always throw tantrums in my travels, but when I do, they most always work!” . . .

The_most_interesting_man copySuch might have said the world’s most interesting (Dos Equis) man, but, clearly, he doesn’t ever need to throw a tantrum, but some of us might benefit somewhat by doing so.

Here are a few vignettes of mixed success of temper tantrums strategically placed. A couple are outrageous; another may be more on a slow burn, but effective, nonetheless.

Italian.Motorcyle.Police copy

 The Speed Trap
Italian Riviera, Italy, 1964
by Michael Brein

The Italians–

They sped like lunatics. They drove up on the sidewalks to pass stopped cars. They were crazy there. If there were laws, they did not apply to them. Yep, I’m talking about the ITALIANS! And me? A speeding ticket along the Italian Riviera? This is nuts! They are crazy. This calls for a strategic something or other: let’s call it a verbal ‘tantrum’ of sorts on a slow burn. Is it possible to wear down the Italians? –the Italian motorcycle cops, in particular?–Michael Brein

They say that communication is a wonderful thing. But sometimes you want to be as misunderstood as you possibly can be. This is especially true when driving in Italy and when stopped for ‘speeding’ by motorcycle cops on the Italian Riviera!

Come on, give me a break: SPEEDING in Italy? My gawd, that’s an oxymoron if I’ve ever heard one–they drive on the sidewalks there. After all, there is no such animal as ‘driving laws,’ in Italy. Oh maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Sure, of course there are laws, but maybe they are not always followed to the letter. And they certainly do not apply to the Italians. So when you –an American–are stopped by, not one, but TWO Italian motorcycle cops, it is best to allow the ‘Scoundrel’ in you to take over!

So there I am, cruising along the beautiful Italian Riviera with not a care in the world. Hey, maybe I am going a little fast, but EVERYONE goes fast in Italy! So what’s the big deal?

So how is it–and WHY is it–that two Italian motorcycle cops are on my tail? They catch up to me with lights and sirens glaring and blaring! Maybe they are going to pass me on their way to apprehending a REAL criminal, not a naive young American driver, who, there by the grace of God, not only is able to navigate the Italian roads, but still manages to stay alive.

I pull over as, apparently, the ‘moto poliziotti’ do, indeed, mean ME! It’s the ‘Your Papers Pliz,’ syndrome all over again. Not being one who does particularly well with authority, in general, I am even less inclined to be extorted by cops whose only meaningful reason for pulling me over is, undoubtedly, to try to get some money out of me to line their pockets with or to get me the hell off their roads! (Now, THAT’S a laugh!)

Take Me to the Embassy!

Now, whatever it was that I supposedly did–whatever law(s) I supposedly broke–I am afraid I never quite found out. For, suddenly, a wave of meaningless English words and phrases just spews from my mouth. I am also gesturing and waving wildly with my hands and arms. I am loud. I am fast. I am boisterous. And I am flamboyant.

I am, in a word, the last person you want to be talking to if neither party speaks the other’s language. And interspersed in this schizo salad of words is but one single coherent phrase that I repeat over and over again, loudly, obnoxiously and ‘ad nauseam’–“Take me to the American Embassy. THE AMERICAN EMBASSY!”

Or maybe I was heard to shout some bastardized combo of Spanish, Italian, and gobbledegook-pigeon Internationale version of “Embissado Americano!” which would, no doubt, convey the term ever so more loudly, slowly, and staunchly!

What to do? Arrest me? Shoot me? Or turn away in manifest disgust and send me off packing with a simple shrug or hand gesture? In geometry, the shortest distance between two points is the straight line. In Italo speak, the best way to get rid of a nuisance is to shoo him away and simply walk off.

And that’s exactly how it all ended.


The ‘Scoundrel’ in me was, indeed, extremely proud of being able to successfully work the art of miscommunication from a very close call into a very great escape! The ‘Scoundrel’ knows full well how to create a tantrum on a slow burn and how to sew enough confusion to make the situation all the more hopeless.

And could I have in those few moments not only learned how to drive in Italy, but did I also become a de facto Italian in the process?

The “Speak Louder and Slower” Syndrome
by Michael Brein

054 Speak Louder

You know, when someone speaks to you in another language other than yours, you can fall victim to the common ‘speak louder and more slowly’ syndrome.

Whoa! The guy’s not deaf–but you’re soon going to cause him to be so.

And speak as slowly as you like–but you still are not going to be better understood for all of it!

Note: I am fairly sure that I threw elements of this syndrome, as well, into the mix in the story above.

 Two Tales of Chuck
Italy & Spain, 1962
Contributed by Dr. Loren Ekroth

022 Italy Border

The guy above  (“Chuck”) tried to pull rank on Italian border police.

He employed gestures, words, emotions, shouting, demanding, feigning great importance and notoriety–everything in his arsenal! In a word, he employed some of the elements of a tantrum, but not necessarily all of them.

It did not work. His shenanigans cost him four more wasted hours at Italian customs!

The guy below (same guy, Chuck)–but now in a different circumstance–threw a bonafide screaming tantrum-fit in a Spanish car dealership.

It just so happened that the lobby was filled with well-dressed-to-kill, wealthier Spanish automobile buyers on a sophisticated Sunday outing shopping for luxury car models.

Apparently, the dealership service department had evidently promised to have the car serviced and ready sooner. However, whether for reasons of Spain-ish-time or some other excuse, the car was not ready on time.

Our Chuck and his traveling companion, Loren, needed out of there as soon as possible. So Chuck did what Chuck does best (sometimes)–he threw one of his infamous signature strategic tantrum-fits.

What happened next was nothing less than amazing. Out of the pressure of such profound embarrassment over this incident, of course, caused,  carried out, and surely played to the hilt for all it was worth by our Chuck right in front of a now growing cadre of shocked and gawking customers all gathering around, the Service Department began work on Chuck’s car IMMEDIATELY and had them out of there in less than an hour! Now, this was a tantrum that WORKED!

020 Tantrum

Note: The travel stories / vignettes featured above are excerpted from Michael Brein’s new book-a-zine, Travel Tales Monthly, Issue No. 2 AUG 2014, which is available for subscription through The Travel Psychologist ESTORE (see tab in the menu above).

The August issue also features more on better conversations in travel by guest writer, Dr. Loren Ekroth, aka “Dr Conversation.”

Sketches by Ted Keller







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