If you missed my first post on Italian Life Olympics, click here to catch up.
So, back to event #2: crossing the street in Italy.
No, no! It’s no joke. In order to correctly perform this task in busy, crowded, car-congested cities like Roma or Napoli, there’s a certain level of skill required or else –
Some Mario Andretti wannabe will remorselessly metterti sotto (run you over) in their little Fiat 500 without a backward glance while you’re left, stuck to the pavement, newly resembling a human pizza.
Wishing earnestly to avoid this fate, you keep your wits about you and gear up for the event. (Some people choose to say a hearty goodbye to their loved ones beforehand – you never know!).
“Today I’m crossing the street.” “Call when you get to the other side.”
You walk to the curb of the street you wish to cross and size up the amount of traffic (probably molto) that’s crossing your path. You pay no attention (this is important) to what’s going on with the semafori (traffic lights) or the strisce (crosswalks), because the drivers don’t either. You take in the speed, the size of the vehicles and any other obstructions in the area. You toe up to the edge.
Then you turn your head towards oncoming traffic and catch the eye of a driver in the lane closest to you. Now, they’re not really slowing down yet, but you know this is your chance. You maintain eye contact with the driver, steel yourself for the exertion ahead, step off the curb and you…
Walk into traffic.
Chin up, head high, like you own the street. And you keep walking.
You catch the eye of other drivers as they approach you, and something miraculous happens. Sensing that you’re actually serious about traversing their path, and that their sewing-machine engines are no match for you, they’ll take in your confident stride and acquiesce. Momentarily.
And like Moses parted the Red Sea, the traffic will part, if only briefly, to allow your safe passage to the other side.
But don’t dawdle, and per l‘amor del cielo (for goodness’ sake), don’t run. You’ve gotta look like you’re in control or else someone’s foot might get a little heavy at your display of weakness and – POM! The human pizza fate is once again yours.
All of this fuss can be avoided if you can cross in the company of a nun or priest. Italian drivers will sooner crash than harm someone in a habit!