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Ivana the Terrible

by Tara

For the most part, the steely glares we've been warned to expect here in Romania have proven to be nonexistent. In fact, everywhere we've been, people have almost universally been friendly and welcoming, especially when given a smile or hello to warm them up. …with one notable exception: Ivana.

A tall woman in her early forties, with boy-cut hair dyed raven black, and a hefty ring of maroon lip-liner, Ivana is a walking Eastern European stereotype in her perfectly pressed, blazing white suit. She works in the dining room of the hotel where we are staying.

When we arrive for breakfast she greets us with a cold, glowering stare. Eying us from top to bottom, lingering on our socked feet (because why put on shoes at 9AM when you're just padding down the carpeted hallway for breakfast?), her lip raises slightly in what seems to be a very disapproving sneer but could well be her version of a friendly hello.

Without saying a word, she gestures for us to sit down and, in a well-orchestrated manner, carefully flips our water glasses over and removes the wine goblets. There are several plates, a few cups, and two sets of silverware at each place setting, and we can't help but think it's a bit overkill. It's just breakfast, after all.

Like an army general, she marches purposefully to the stack of menus at the other side of the room, returns and inserts them into our open hands with precision. Then she leaves us to look them over while she grabs a dust buster and vigorously sucks up every last crumb from another table. I pity the crumb that would dare resist Ivana the Terrible.

I comment to Tyler that she was a prison guard in another life, and we both crack up because it actually seems highly probable. She would make a fantastic warden! She comes to take our order and we make every effort to get a smile out of her, but our attempts are futile. Our broken Romanian only seems to annoy her further.

When our formal breakfast is through, we make our way to the door. Then Ivana, ever watchful, stops us. We have overspent our allotted 30 lei, and we owe her five. Tyler runs back to the room to get the wallet and we pay her.

The next day we are careful to keep track of how much we are spending, to make sure we don't go over the 30 lei included in the price of our room. As we leave, Ivana stops us again, saying we owe her 4 lei. Oh you're good, Ivana. Tyler summarily informs her that we do not in fact, owe her anything. She shrugs her shoulders stiffly and dismisses us with a glare.

We would have taken a photo of her, but we didn't want her to snap our necks.