Monday, March 15, 2010

Winter Driving

December 17th, 2009:

Dear sweet lord, why did I leave the apartment when there is snow on the ground? The answer: I wanted to make pumpkin pie, and as you may know I will brave just about anything for baked goods. I was also curious as to the effect that snow would have on Italian driving skills, and now I know. Ask and you shall receive. They are bad enough on solid ground, but when you add ice to the mix, the effect is truly terrifying. Walking down my little street I heard nothing but the sounds of cars intimately getting to know each other as drivers pushed, shoved, and coerced their little vehicles out of buried parking spots. There wasn’t even the superficial fa├žade of trying to avoid the other cars. It’s every man for himself here, take no mercy.

When I made it to the main intersection I paused to consider my options. Normally my policy is to just dart out in front of traffic and to hope that they stop, but I thought it better to abandon that today, as they probably wouldn’t stop for an armored tank, let alone me. So I decided to take the bus to the market, for some reason thinking that that would be safer than walking. I have such a propensity for bad calls in Italy. After four months here you would think that I would learn...

The bus driver was having a grand old time navigating the icy roads, careening back and forth over the train tracks. I think his official intention was to stay on the tracks, but in reality he was having a blast thoroughly rattling all of the passengers. Have you ever tried to drive a car on train tracks? If so then you know that it’s no picnic, even in the best of circumstances. Standing up while the bus is swerving left and right over them the whole time, with the tracks coated with two inches of ice; the overall effect was bone rattling. For a second I flashed back to a mosh pit scene from when I was a teenager: there were people falling into each other everywhere I turned, spreading out their arms in an attempt to regain balance that was hopelessly lost, pending our release from this death trap.

No one will believe me, but I swear that when I chanced to look towards the front of the bus I saw the busdriver grinning gleefully as he wildly turned the wheel. He saw me looking at him and quickly hid his maniacal smile, but his secret was out. I feared the worst: they have let the mentally infirm out of their straightjackets and onto the roads of Torino.

Finally the bus screamed to a halt in front of the grocery store. After getting out and kissing the ground, I decided to walk back after all. If given the choice between being buried alive under a human dogpile or flattened by a Fiat, I choose the Fiat. They are so small that there’s a chance I might live to tell the tale. I scurried into my safe, warm apartment, vowing not to emerge until springtime.