I’ve been avoiding writing about Rome because I can’t think of anything really positive to write about it these days, except the weather. That is, the weather as a yearly statistical average (one of the best in Europe). Not like today when it rained a bit this morning. The city’s in general disarray, with mafia, corruption, garbage removal issues, municipal agencies going bankrupt, hasty emergency last-minute roadworks to try to face the expected visits from 25 million pilgrims -they’ll start pouring in Dec. 8th for a Vatican Jubilee Year. That’ll be fun. In 2013, we were relieved to have voted in what seemed to be a totally honest Mayor – a miracle in itself, as Italian politics go. But earlier this month, a magazine dug up the fact he had cheated on his personal “official” expenses. Even honesty is relative in this city. So now we’re also Mayor-less.
Transportation-wise, we only have two metro (=subway) lines to serve a major city that sprawls over 496 sq. miles, with an often clogged up Ring Road around it. The inner ring road vies in cloggy-ness. The city wasn’t built for 3rd millennium traffic, and the clunky bus services have trouble weaving through cobbled streets, road-rage car drivers and crazed motorcyclists. Not to mention the hordes of foreigners on foot who crowd the city center and don’t realize pedestrian crossings are only there for show and not to be taken seriously. Nor, in some cases, traffic lights.
All that’s business-as-usual. What’s hard to handle is what happens when it rains. Locals don’t seem to own umbrellas, galoshes, raincoats, sensible shoes or whatever, and when it rains most Romans avoid public transportation, snub their beloved motorbikes and head for work in their cars. The result is pure Dante hell. Roman motorists have never heard of moving onto a cross-roads only once the other-side exit has freed up, and the grid-locked vehicles are so close to one another as to look like metal poured over the cement at crossings. The accumulated racket of the horns almost manages to drown out the rude epithets flying over the scene. The purpose of all this extra chaos is meant to be not getting wet, so the usual double parking morphs into triples with hardly any room left for cars to pass. Forget buses.
I’d expected things to improve with the growing internationalization of the city, but I was wrong. Newcomers just start behaving like the locals. I’ve heard northern Europeans proclaim the joys of shaking off a lifetime of discipline and obeying basic community-oriented rules, specially knowing they’ll probably get off scot-free if they break any – bar none – here.
I forgot that another nice thing I could say about this city is that many areas have lots of trees lining the roads. Even orange trees that look great when the fruit’s ripe. But don’t ever reach for one, they’ve absorbed so much smog they’d kill you on the spot. So the oranges are left to drop and knock out the ancient sewer system, which happens anyway in Autumn when leaves fall. Whole neighbourhoods get flooded. Adding to the chaos.
Anyway, things won’t change because Romans aren’t educating their children differently. We don’t have school buses, so even in clement weather, a great number of children are accompanied to school – often unnecessarily, when we’re talking teenagers – by a grandparent, an uncle, or just an unemployed neighbour. Car-sharing would take too much organizational effort, so it’s chacun pour soi et Dieu pour tous…
Just like their parents, Junior and Princess would die if their peers caught them wearing anything as unfashionable as the above (galoshes, sensible shoes etc.). And parents are terrified their children might catch a cold in their light fashionable gear, so most under-age Romans get a personal car ride to school if the sky shows the slightest sign of wanting to rain.
Why am I griping? Well, I use public transportation whenever possible. I work in different locations, and some of them aren’t properly connected to each other, so depending on my day’s logistics, I sometimes have to drive. Like this morning.
I was positively ballistic after a 3-hour crawl across the city to get to an appointment that should have been at most 50 minutes away. Just because there was a sprinkle of rain at daybreak and all the cars in Rome showed up on the roads.
There, I got that off my chest.
Now it’s lunchtime, the sun’s shining again and I’m not sure what to do with my umbrella.
Is your city as rain-challenged as this one?
Photos (in the order) www.abcnews.go ; www.youtube.com “Crazy Rome traffic intersection”; http://www.romatoday.it; www.boards.cruisecritic.com ; www.dreamstime.com; http://www.galoshesforwomen.com; www.inhabitots.com