southern italian life

An American woman's random thoughts on daily life in southern Italy

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Train, Train, Train (Train of Fools)

Riding the train to work is a fact of my life here in southern Italy. And, generally, I have few complaints. Okay, the trains aren't ALWAYS on time . . . and a little air-conditioning would be nice in the summer . . . but the train is a convenient, economical way to get where I have to go - without traffic or parking hassles - and it provides me with 2 guaranteed 30 minute blocks of reading time -- very precious to a mother of young children who likes to read - 'cause you KNOW you're not going to get that reading done at home!

And where else in life do you get the chance to OBLITERATE something? That's what they call the process of sticking your ticket into one of these little yellow boxes - "obliterazione." The box prints the time and place of obliteration, so the ticket inspector on the train (if one happens to come by . . .) knows if you paid for your trip. I just like the sound of the word "obliterate," makes me feel like I've really done something big, final . . . I didn't just validate that ticket, no, I obliterated it! Don't ask me about the sign indicating that people with one leg shorter than the other are not allowed . . .

But, then there's the down side of riding the train . . . take yesterday as I was coming home from a long day of work, thinking of nothing but reading my book and eating some Pringles, I happened to notice some unusual activity from the guy sitting across the aisle from me. I won't go into graphic details, but I will say that it's not the first time I've run into a pervert on the train. Another time was much worse, involving full frontal nudity . . . on a crowded train. I don't really know what to do in these cases, I just get up and find a different seat farther down the train, next to a nun if possible. I don't know if screaming, or yelling "what do you think you're doing?" would help the situation or make it worse. I did file a complaint with the railway, but I'm not sure what good that will really do.

Then there's the Fainting Syndrome. I don't know how many times people have fainted while I was on the train. This usually happens during the morning rush hour. When they only schedule one train per hour and everyone and his brother try to squeeze into those few trains, all at the same time, whether there's enough space or not, and all the seats are occupied, and the whole corrider is full of people standing up and the entry area is jam-packed, etc. It gets so hot and stuffy in the coach that you can hardly breathe. How would YOU solve this problem? I don't know . . . maybe, gosh this may be revolutionary . . . open a window to let in some fresh air? But NOOOO, that's not an option. People around here seem to have an abiding fear of DRAFTS. Not the kind that take you off to fight wars you may or may not want to fight, just the kind that move a little air around a closed space. No air must be allowed in . . . someone might catch his death of cold, someone else might get . . . the dread "cervicale"! Which translates as cervical arthrosis and must be the Number One Perceived Illness in all of southern Italy (don't know about the north). My understanding is that it is a degenerative disease and I'm not sure about the link to drafts - but hey, I'm no doctor. And this is a truly deeply rooted belief around here, so, what are you going to do? You can't open the windows, so people faint. It happens at least once a month while I'm riding the train.

But, again, most of my associations with the train are positive. When the boys were about 3 and 5 years old we used to take mini field trips to the station to watch the trains go by. One would pass every blue moon and we would identify it: Regional, Freight and the very exciting, yet rather frightening In Transit Train (they don't stop and speed through the station extremely fast). Between trains we would read storybooks and just sit there and relax - together with all the grandfathers who do the same thing every day with their grandchildren.


At 9/17/2008 8:05 AM, Blogger Ming the Merciless said...

Love the stories of your train rides.

The trains, subways and buses in NYC use a credit card like ticketing system where there is a black magnetic strip on one side of the card.

But I have ridden on the New Jersey local tram that uses the "obliterating" system too. And like Moffeta, most times the conducters are not on the tram.

As for the sexual deviants, those guys get their jollies from your horrified reaction. So the next time someone exposes himself to you, just laugh and use your fingers to indicate "very small". They will RUIN his day!!!

And report back to us what happens. :-)

At 1/14/2010 2:23 AM, Blogger Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

Nice shot--I used to love to read on the bus, and also, I wrote a couple novels on the bus--children's novels for my own kids. We didn't have a train then, but I did live somewhere where there was a train like that that I took, long ago. Nice.


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