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Driving Rome.

Monday, June 25, 2007 by Michael Reynolds

So, here's what you hear about Italian drivers; they're aggressive, they're crazy, they're crazily aggressive, they don't give a fuck about rules, and by the way? Cuh-r-a-a-a-a-z-y..

Well, my friends, I have this day driven Rome, and I have survived. About six hours behind the wheel of a BMW 3-series diesel wagon, guided by Hertz Neverlost (more on that later.) And you know what? The Roman drivers are neither aggressive nor crazy. You know what they are? They're competent, that's what they are. They pay attention, which is more than I can say for about half of American drivers. They pay attention. They know where their fucking car is. They know where your fucking car is. They don't turn driving into some pathetic test of dick size, they just get the damned job done.

It's as if I'd spent my life driving among amateurs and was now transported to the big leagues. These people care about driving. When they're driving, you know what they do? They fucking drive, that's what they do. They don't shove hamburgers into their faces. They don't sip lattes. They don't talk to their girlfriend on the phone. They don't apply make-up. They don't daydream. They drive. They drive the goddamned car.

That having been said, God help you driving in Rome. Jesus scat-singing Christ, this city is impossible to drive. The decision on one-way streets is apparently made by throw of the dice or possibly according to some obscure astrological methodology, because it make no sense whatsoever. There are entire neighborhoods in Rome where every single street goes West.

Go East? No, motherfucker, we're all going West. If you're here, you're going West and screw you. Those assholes over the river may let you go East, but not here, my friend, here you are going West.

And the Vespas. Ah, the Vespas, they're quite a feature of the local traffic scene. Here's the best way I can explain this: it's you in your car, and everyone else in their cars, and you're all driving down Viale Papa Obscuro XVII doing your best to make sense of a forest of mismatched signs and trying like hell not to run into each other, what with the nine centimeter tolerances, and the Vespas are like bullets someone is firing into the traffic. Drive, swerve, in, out, accelerate, brake, me in front of you, you in front of me, zoom, zoom, zoom and son of a bitch who the fuck is firing Vespas at us?

They're everywhere. Everywhere you thought you had an opening? There's eight Vespas. And one Kawasaki.

Still, it was fun. Until Hertz Neverlost -- or the British Bitch, as we call her -- had a nervous breakdown. All day long she guided us patiently as I missed turn after turn. "Recalculating route. . ."

"She said 'stay left', which fucking left, the fucking viale left or the fucking via left or the fucking piazza left? I got three fucking lefts in the space of eight fucking feet."

"Recalculating route . . . you American wanker."

Anyway, she served us all day long, until the end when she went nuts and nothing could reboot her. She insisted on taking us away from the hotel. She wouldn't take us to the train station, or the coliseum, or to a damned thing. She was going West and we could fuck ourselves, the British Bitch had had it with the bloody stupid American family.

Driving in Rome without Neverlost? Scary stuff, my friends. Stephen King should write a book. "GPS: Ghoulish Positioning System." You punch in your hotels address and the GPS takes you to meet the Walkin' Dude.

You can't get there from here. Not in Rome, my friend. The Romans with their streets have demonstrated the physics of the black hole: there is no engine powerful enough to escape from the senso unico vortex.

We spent 20 minutes literally with our hotel in sight, unable to bring out car to the hotel. It was the drive Kafka would have written about if he'd had a car, and no cockroaches.

But don't blame the Italian drivers, it's not their fault. They are capable, tolerant and polite. As opposed to Italian city planners who are sick, sadistic pricks.

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