Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mastering An Italian Essential

So Shira and I made some important steps today in cracking the Italian culture. We've pretty much (though I hate to get cocky) figured out how to cross the street. This turns out to be a much more significant issue than you'd think it would be.

We first noticed in Naples that traffic at busy intersections wouldn't have any sort of stop light. There would be a crosswalk, but that's about it. It was a mystery to us when it was our turn to walk, and the traffic's turn to stop.

We got by in Naples using a trick that I frequently use when I visit countries that drive on the left side of the road - cross the street on the heels of a local. Sounds crazy, but it works really well, especially when you are jet lagged and trying to make your way in England or Australia and can't quite predict where the next car is going to appear from.

In Naples, one local heard us kvetching about a particular intersection and turned to us and in an Italian accent remarked: "Is Normal." And ventured into the intersection without a care in the world - assuming perhaps that he'd do more harm to the Vespas and Smart Cars than they would do to him.

Rome is in much the state Naples is in, if not worse. So, while exploring there today, we pretty much had to master the art of getting across there street. Here's what you do, in case you're ever in Italy.

  1. Don't wait for a break in traffic. There won't be one. You'll just be standing there all day.
  2. Look for a slight pause in traffic, and then make your move - just step out in the stream of traffic.
  3. Say a small prayer, hoping that the Taxi you just stepped in front of will slow down / stop.
  4. He won't show any sign of slowing down till he's right on top of you - so there's no use in actually trying to judge his response.
  5. If that went well, make your way further into the intersection.
  6. If you want, you can put your hand up like you are going to magically stop the cars. This will make you feel better, and will give them a target to shoot for.
  7. Repeat the above steps till you're across the intersection.

See, that's not so complicated? You just need to exercise blind faith that random strangers will stop for you.

Or cross with a local. Even then good luck.

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