August 27, 2007

driving lessons

With his driving permit in hand my son has been driving me to and from volleyball practice near the via Flaminia. Until today, there were so few cars on the road that it was a reasonable ride.

But now they are back, Roman drivers, driving on the same Roman streets that have turned overnight into chaos. I try to encourage my son to stay within one of the three lanes while cars weave back and forth, "what lanes?", he asks and in fact, they are not marked on the road. Then I tell him not to even consider overtaking the bus in front of us on the via del Gianicolo that winds its way up the Gianicolo hill curve after curve. As I speak, a red Panda overtakes us just before a curve and sneaks in behind the bus into what was his safety distance. "Like that", I add.

As I have noted before here, it is about a different sense of personal space, in-groups to which you, as a mere stranger, never belong and a ever changing personalized interpretation of rules.

Today it all rubs me the wrong way. I've been away. Or maybe it is the heat.

1. A bus slowly wanders into the intersection past a red light while its driver chats on his cell phone. Will it stop and do I dare pass? I flash. He looks at me, surprised, "what do you want from me?"

2. Guy behind me in a big fat car on a quiet side street in Monte Verde Vecchio hugging the back of my car and flashing his lights. I roll down the window and indicate "slow down" and another "che fai" signal. 50km is more than enough in this neighborhood. He gave me the finger as I turned off at the next intersection and raced off.

3. One line, five people stand and wait. New window suddenly opens. Woman rushes in the front door and runs to the window. "Excuse me", I intervene, "We have all been waiting." She looks astonished. What could I possibly be talking about. "But a new window has opened," she states as she turns to do her operation. No one says anything, like "hey lady, get to the back of the line," instead they look down, embarrassed for me.

4. Two young girls (maybe 17) walking their dog. They stop. He has to poop. That done, they wander off enveloped in chatter. Since the tree where he stopped is just by my door, I pull over, roll down the window and ask, "and you just walk off, like that?" One girl stops, "excuse me?" I continue, "Your dog finishes and then you just walk off?" She looks confused, has no idea what I am talking about. So, I got specific, "the dog pooped and you just left it there and walked off." A glitter of awareness began to shine, "oh, that, but it was on the dirt." So, while the rule is, "pick up your dog's poo," her personal interpretation is that this rule does not apply if the poop lands in the small circle of dirt cut into the sidewalk to make room for the tree's roots. Good to know should I ever have a dog.

Yep. I'm back. In the extreme heat, with no extreme air conditioning and no public pool in sight. The hotel nearby wanted 40 euros a person yesterday to partake of their waters. Significantly more than our day at Universal Studios!

a domani,

August 25, 2007

August days

One thing I like about August days in Rome is the sense of intimacy. There are so few of us here and no one is in a rush. Only one bar is open in my neighborhood and there was a lively mixed crowd at the tables in front -- a happening place to be in the midst of boarded up shops, bars and restaurants where everyone stops and chats to strangers. I stopped by the market on my way home and found one lone stand open, an explosion of color between the large grey shuttered stands to either side. He was alone and greeted me with open arms -- "Ahhhhh bella signora, solo noi due qui oggi!"

I won't last long! The hoards will be filling the highways and byways tomorrow and by Monday we will just be among the crowds again.

a domani,

August 22, 2007

Back from the USA

Back home. Heat. Absolute quite. Parking paradise.
It is August and everyone is still away.
But we are here. Juggling jet-lag, finishing off work upstairs with our Romanian workmen and shuffling our son back and forth to volley practice morning and afternoon while he navigates the empty city streets with his "foglio rosa" or driving permit.

Cross-cultural highlights from our US trip to Alaska and California.

Best air conditioning moment. Exiting the Fairbanks, Alaska airport into 50 degree (F) temperature with drizzle conditions only to enter a hotel shuttle van with blaring air conditioning -- a true cultural mystery. No oil shortage in Alaska for sure! Italians (and the rest of the world) will never, never understand the American obsession for extreme air conditioning.

Great signs telling us what to do and not to do: No diving into a hot tub?
And why would you try to climb on top of an oil pipeline, unless you were really, really stupid?
Notice the bullet holes? Guess that sign worked.

The food thing: just too much of it.
Mexican burritos for four (more like eight?).

Delta airline "snack" -- a choice of chips, granola bars (pure fats and sugar) or salted peanuts. First class got a wider variety of chips. How lucky!

Bus stop just outside Anchorage (tire blow) at 6:30. EVERYONE broke out the snack food, what else is there to do when a tire blows out but eat.

We had great food on our trip. Very often. No time interval to get hungry and the next meal was already on its way. We tried to have dinner at 10:00 in Santa Barbara, but at that hour you can only drink -- if you are over 21.

The drinking thing. My 18 and 19 year olds couldn't enter a bar with their 21 and 23 year old cousins even just to hear the band that was playing and have a coke....They all ended up hanging out in a hotel room instead. A great American experience, being carded and sent to hide out in a room. I suppose this produces responsible adults.

Organization: fantastic! Cruise West was the best, even under the stress of a tire blow-out. The timing, organization, attention to detail, customer service, care was amazing to watch -- American expectations in the sphere of customer service are indeed very high. We, instead, stood in awe as they catered to our every possible need.

Horizontal hierarchy: The captain, engineer, hotel manager were all there helping pass our luggage along up the plank together with their hard-working staff. Objective-driven teamwork at its best. No "barone" allowed, all for one and one for all. Almost shocking to watch.

Dryers: An Anchorage moment.

Nature: A Santa Barbara moment.

A domani,

August 2, 2007

Happy August

Happy August to all, I will be back on-line in a few weeks, in the meantime, please look through my labels to the right for past posts.