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,


gillian said...

and i was hoping the calm would hold another back in 2 days and ready to tackle the roman roads...maybe in the early morning :)

Anonymous said...

another example of the Roman use of space. My neighborhood has recently become a 'blue zone', i.e., paid parking. Cars without the required neighborhood sticker are now parked outside of the blue markings to avoid paying and/or a ticket--even on the side of the street marked no parking! The parking vigili only ticket in the blue zone not for illegal parking.
I now have no problem finding a place to park.

Romerican said...

oh yes, the ins and outs of life in rome...
i'm in one of those moods too, in fact i cannot wait to head back to USA for my yearly visit!

Elizabeth said...

Hi Gillian! See you soon.

Anonymous. Gotta love the ingenuity of it all. I wrote about the empty pay parking lot at the auditorium and all the cars parked illegally around it (I think it was called "learning ambiguity", a July post).

Romerican. We all have bad days occasionally and need to rant... Part of the expat experience. Have a good trip!

Farfallina - Roam 2 Rome said...

Great interview you gave! :)

I just read it right now :)