Crossing the street
In my city, when drivers stop to allow pedestrians to traverse on crosswalks, the pedestrians thank them. This should give you an idea of how things work here.
I’ve been to NYC and other places where pedestrians appear to always have the right of way. There you may cross on a red light, and cars will stop to let you pass.
Here? Not a chance.
So I beg of you – before crossing, make sure you have a green light, always look to your right and to your left, and then proceed.
If there is no traffic light (and no teleportation available) everything I’ve just said still applies… times a thousand.
Also, keep in mind that if drivers see you crossing, they won’t stop. Ever.
If anything, they will honk to hurry you up.
Another typical habit Italian drivers have is to adjust the speed of the car just enough to let you start crossing, and then suddenly accelerate to get right behind you when you’re barely halfway through.
FYI: this, in case you’re wondering, is considered to be an act of courtesy.
In Milan, and, in Italy in general, car horns are used in lieu of brakes.
Drivers only brake when strictly indispensable.
In Milan, and more generally in Italy, what is meant by “speed limit” is the actual, physical limit that a car can reach before the engine melts down.
Yes, there are signs, here and there, indicating the hypothetical speed limit set by law on that particular road…
Number of fucks given: zero.
The problem arises when it’s you behind the wheel, and you happen to be the only one respecting those limits. You will find yourself tailgated by some very pissed-off dude driving at 50 miles per hour on a 15-mph road.
This is one of the many instances that lead to what I call the “Italian paradox”, i.e.: you are forced to NOT abide by the rules, if you want to live in peace.
Let’s be clear: the Italians are racist unbeknownst to themselves. Or better put: they are genuinely convinced they are not racist, but they are.
For your average Italian, racism is not the result of rational, lucid thinking. Of course there are also people who are consciously racist, but those are found everywhere.
What you need to know, if you are Black, Asian or Latino and you interact with my fellow countrymen, is that you will be perceived as an inferior being, at least from an economical point of view.
Little does it matter if you are an African-American attorney who makes millions of dollars a year… in their eyes you are black, hence a poor devil.
No, I correct myself: the common term is “poor thing.”
They will notice that you are dressed fine, and they will be puzzled.
It doesn’t matter if you are a consultant surgeon of Mexican origin… in their eyes, you will always be an illegal janitor of Mexican origin.
It is a matter of “migratory imprinting” – since in this country, nowadays, immigrants are anything but rich and usually have it bad and are not (yet) fully integrated, average Italians tend to consider the whole issue from an ethnic standpoint and not from a logical one.
Getting in line
Not even a black belt in quantum geometry will ever manage to explain to you the dynamics and the transformations to which a line is subject here in Italy. Get over it, just like I did.
In theory, it should be a very simple concept – people in wait who form a tidy line in front of something. But nope, it doesn’t work like that over here… people “in line” are not necessarily before or behind you, they might very well be next to you, or a little further away from you, or seated someplace else, and so forth.
Which, once again, leads to the “Italian paradox”… if you do not want to spend the whole day waiting “in line”, you are inevitably forced to NOT abide by the rules and just wise up.
To be continued…
(translated by Valentina Besi)