Wednesday, June 6, 2007

ode to public transportation

Public transportation, how I loathe thee, let me count the ways…
I’m one of those ex-pats who has NEVER driven in Italy. I have an American license but I’ve never had a car here because my neighborhood is a parking nightmare, plus with registration, insurance & gas, I probably couldn’t afford a car anyway. I’m scared shitless to drive a motorino (riding on the back of one suits me fine though!) soooo I’m eternally condemned to public transportation. Most Romans I know avoid all “mezzi” like the plague and I don’t blame them. I used to work 5 minutes from my home which meant a nice, leisurely stroll to work in the morning, but for about 8 months now I’ve had to haul some ass: tram to stazione Trastevere then the commuter train (trenino) to stazione Tiburtina. Yes, it’s 1,000 times better than taking the metro which is filthy, stinky, and slow BUT it’s still a pain in gluteus maximus. Let me share with you the joys of my daily commute:
I walk quickly to the tram stop, making sure not to run or I might get tackled by one of the many loose punkabbestia dogs hanging around the small, shit-covered grass area near the tram stop. As the tram nears the platform, I stand back and watch as the locals gather smack dab in front of the opening doors… even if the tram is empty, there still seems to be a race to get inside first and grab a seat. This always grates on my nerves because it’s soooo counterproductive. If they would just let the people out first there would be no need to push and shove, and it would be much more pleasant for us all! It’s common sense and common courtesy.
I watch the smokers outside take their last drag from a cigarette and then exhale INSIDE of the tram. Classy! They aren’t technically smoking in the tram but they’ve just filled it with the smell of smoke for the next 5 stops. On the tram, most people behave as if they were raised in a cave: standing right on top of you when there is plenty of room elsewhere, standing way too close behind you, not holding onto the bars and thus plowing into you once the tram accelerates, hogging the bars and leaning full body into them hence squashing your hands, or harassing you with the “scende alla prossima?” question even though there is plenty of room for them to go around you (note: I normally do not block the doors, as I consider it a major public trans faux pas, but if the tram is crowded you use any space you can get). As we reach the big stop, half of the tram has already huddled around the doors as if there were some invisible prize waiting for the person who steps off the tram first. The tram doors open and we are greeted by hoards inconsiderate passengers shoving their way inside before we’ve managed to step out. At this point I’m usually muttering under my breath. But wait, there’s more!!!
Next I have to walk through the always foul and smoky stazione Trastevere. Despite all of the no smoking signage, people are puffing away in the lobby and in the underpasses. Side note: I actually wrote a complaint letter to Trenitalia about that, so far no response! (YES, I write complaint letters, that’s how I am … it’s part of my character to fight for what I think is right). Speaking of underpasses, why don’t people walk on the right side of the corridor/stairway? It’s really not that complicated- if those exiting stay to the right, they’d leave room for those of us entering on the right. But instead, you get enveloped in this sea of people pushing their way up the stairs while you elbow and shoulder your way down.
Now I wait at the platform until the train decides to show up, it’s usually about 5-10 minutes late every day. It shows up, I step back and watch the senseless “let me shove my way in before everybody gets out” game, then I step inside like the civilized person my mamma raised me to be. There is one positive aspect I must mention- I have ALWAYS found a seat on the train. It may have been filthy or stinky or in a non-air conditioned car but I’ve never had to stand.
And that is why I hate public transportation… I know, lots of whiny whining BUT I feel I have the right to complain because I actually buy a yearly bus pass unlike the majority of people. So there!


Kataroma said...

I take metro line A to work every day. Say no more, right?

As a former NYer it also drives me nuts how people stand in the door and don't move into the carriage. I guess they didn't learn public transport etiquette in elementary school like we did!

Romerican said...

Metro A? you poor thing! the metro STINKS, in every sense of the word! especially now that it's summer and B.O. is wafting through the train. yuck!

jennifer said...

You forgot to mention Italians' love/hate relationship with deodorant... Always fun on the tram

Tim said...

Sounds very familiar, I used to live in Sicily. People push past you even when there is loads of room to go around. (Better for you to move than they have to walk the extra distance). And they don't say excuse me.
Common courtesy doesn't exist in Italy.
Of course I came to realise that they were never taught this concept as children and they don't expect it from others.