Don’t Complain, Just Run!

22 06 2008

Not much space or consideration for pedestrians in Italy

My brother, a noted coffee-mug connoisseur, had a cup that warned “If you don’t like the way I drive get off the sidewalk.” There’s no question that bad drivers are everywhere – it’s just that the proportion here in Italy seems to be higher; a consequence of the cult of the guida sportiva where every Panda owner tries to take the racing line into sharp curves on ancient roads. When she went to Canada for the first time, my wife was surprised at the high percentage of people who would crawl through deserted streets at a snail’s pace, respecting all the four-way stops, and even using turn signals.

In particular, crossing the street in Italy is always a challenge. The tendency of the average driver is to estimate your expected progress at the time they will pass the intersection so that the car is able to pass 4 cm to your left or right without stopping. The problems come when the driver is distracted, especially by one or more of their cellphones. I’ve seen people controlling their Mercedes with their elbows while speaking on two mobiles simultaneously.

With all the potential perils, I tend to be very assertive when riding my bike or crossing the street: a loud “attenzione” tends to wake up the inattentive conducente. However, such an approach seems to have its dangers. The newspaper La Repubblica is reporting this morning that a pedestrian who complained about an aggressive manuever by a driver on the outskirts of Milan was grabbed by the occupants of the Audi, carried away in the car, and beaten with a baseball bat. The lesson seems to be that if they don’t hit you, just be thankful.

Advertisements




When in Genoa, Bring your Baby Supplies from Home

8 06 2008

Travel Heavy

One of the constants in our marriage has been excess baggage. As we departed on our honeymoon, I discovered that two extra-large suitcases jam-packed with designer apparel, shoes, handbags, and jewelery were travelling along with us. My new wife was determined to act as an “ambasciatrice della moda italiana.” Notwithstanding her commitment to such a patriotic duty, we added new luggage filled with emergency fashions from Gallerie Lafayette after Alitalia temporarily lost everything on the way to Paris.

When we started to go on short trips with our new daughter, prepared for every eventuality, the proliferation of suitcases began to spiral out of control. Nonetheless, I resolved to travel light on our recent weekend break in Genoa. Our daughter is older, more mobile, and (almost) toilet trained – I argued – making it unnecessary to carry everything around. Anyways, there’s a food store every 15 metres in Italy so we could buy any urgent supplies for baby right there in Genoa – or so I thought.

My discovery that there are no children in Genoa started, ironically enough, on the morning that we were supposed to go to the Città dei bambini, a science discovery centre for small children. Determined to do a bit of shopping for myself, I went early to see the Olmo Bicycles factory store and some local bookshops whilst Mamma and figlia had a relaxed breakfast. I promised to get another package of diapers for nighttime and some of the Mio baby yogurt that my daughter craves in the mornings. No problem, I thought, there’s a big supermarket right near the hotel.

When I finally entered the supermarket, on my way back, I couldn’t find anything for small children. I wandered around the aisles confused as both my cellphones began to ring. It was time for daddy to come back so we could all go out together. I pleaded with one of the staff for help – surely there must be a section for baby supplies that I was overlooking. He directed me to a solitary shelf with some Pampers for newborns and two or three tins of infant formula.

“What about size 5 diapers, baby cookies, and Mio yogurt,” I asked naively.

“We don’t stock them here.” Then, turning to the curious locals who were keen to overhear everything, he decided to make a political statement: “What kind of a father comes all the way from New York without any baby supplies?”

This angered me. “Aren’t there any parents here? Don’t children eat yogurt here? What’s the story, are you all impotent in Genoa?”

No one denied it. Indeed, as I frantically ran around to the other food stores, the result was the same – nothing. I had to return to the hotel empty handed.

Genoa: not exactly the città dei bambini

On our way to the Città dei bambini, unconvinced by my account of the local shopping scene, my wife decided to take things in hand. She finally found the diapers after pleading with a clerk to rummage through the back room of the supermarket at the ferry terminal.

Now we are preparing for a trip to Canada this summer. My wife is threatening to depart with a suitcase full of bottled water just in case.

“But Canada has the most water in the world,” I say.

Si, si come Genova. Adesso ci penso io!