Un Eroe e uno Zero is Italian for A Hero and a Zero
Surely you have seen the Costa Concordia? The Italian cruise ship that walked aground. Off a rocky coast. It is quite a study in leadership. Between a lousy captain and a hero captain. First the zero:
One moment this 52-year-old Francesco Schettino was swaggering around in his gold braid, smoothly welcoming the creme de la creme of passengers on the Costa Concordia to his captain’s table. The next moment, he was universally known as Captain Coward, the most hated man in Italy and quite possibly the world.
So far, his defence has been threadbare, to say the least. Apparently, he maintains that he did not really mean to abandon ship, but accidentally slipped and fell, as luck would have it, into a passing lifeboat. Once on dry land, he seems to have suffered a second and similar accident, accidentally falling into a passing taxi, before directing the driver to: ‘Get me as far away from here as possible.’
That is called not talking responsibility. Quite the opposite of this quiet warrior, who took charge of the situation and handled it with military precision:
The coastguard official who has become an overnight star in Italy after lambasting a cruise liner captain for abandoning his grounded ship is refusing to take on the mantle of national hero, claiming he just did his job.
Leaked audio tapes of Gregorio de Falco ordering the ship’s captain, Francesco Schettino, to get back onboard the Costa Concordia on Friday and help passengers have become a sensation in Italy, with Facebook fan pages, newspaper editorials and even T-shirts honouring the 46-year-old.
“Captain,” said De Falco at one point. “This is an order. Now I am in command. You have declared the abandoning of a ship and are going to co-ordinate the rescue from the bridge,” adding, “What do you want to do? Go home?”
Wednesday afternoon quarterdecking is easy. But I would like to think that I would not trip, fall into a lifeboat, and then go home.
As mentioned above, T-shirts have sprung up with the Captain’s phrase (that he uttered in Italian) to the coward. Vado a bordo, cazzo! The utterance is, like good mariners tend to mutter, on the salty side. Not X-rated, but perhaps R or maybe PG-13. Depends on the censor.
I am going to have to track down that Lieutenant Commander at work who is married to an Italian woman. And yell it at him. Hey Shipmate, vado a bordo, cazzo! I do it with all the other Italian four-to-twenty letter words that I know. Most are what a taxi-cab driver might holler. I learned them from an Italian exchange student. All would get me a dirty look and perhaps an interesting hand gesture.
The tragedy has rattled Italy, a country that needs no rattling. Not only is the Euro suffering, the Italian economy is struggling and the always present scandal engulfs their politicians. As is inevitable, the two Captains are being compared and contrasted:
The Italian media said the portrayal of Capt Schettino had tapped into the most familiar stereotypes of their countrymen – he was a dark-haired, sun-tanned “dare devil”, according to one ship’s officer, who drove his 114,000 tonne, 13-storey cruise liner “like a Ferrari” and telephoned his ‘Mamma’ as soon as he realised the trouble he was in.
The protagonists in the drama represented “the two faces of Italy”, the Italian media said.
“His decisive tones recalled black and white war films and comic book heroes,” La Repubblica said of the audio recordings, in which the Coast Guard officer sternly tells the captain to speak up and asks him exactly how many passengers, particularly women and children, are still on board.
“For every Schettino, there is a De Falco, thank goodness,” said one message on Twitter.
Yes, thank goodness. . .