Verbal eruptions are a common occurrence in Italian traffic. For starters, lots of Italians drive like maniacs. All traffic regulations are optional and negotiable depending on the situation. When Gustavo gave me my first ‘driving lesson’ in Rome, he explained a few simple rules. “You might as well just toss out the rear-view mirror. No point in looking in it. Do not worry about what is happening behind you. Concentrate on not hitting anyone in front of you. If someone behind you hits you, their insurance will pay. Do not pay any attention to lanes. Although on some roads there are lines, nobody really bothers with them.” He might have well have added another rule: ‘If you get in a fender-bender, in addition to using the ‘Lei’, make sure you yell louder.’
One day I was driving the correct direction down a one-way street in Rome with my seven-year-old son. A man on a moped came flying towards us in the opposite direction. In order to avoid a head-on collision, I came to a full stop. The man on the moped pulled up beside my window and started screaming at the top of his lungs, “You idiot, stupid…blah, blah, blah…” I was completely shocked and sat there for a second, taking the abuse, when all of a sudden Nico leaned towards my window and yelled “MA VAFFANCULO! (FUCK OFF!).” I am not sure who was more surprised, the man on the moped or me. The man on the moped shut up and took off. I was blown away. “I didn’t know you knew that word,” I said to Nico as I started off again down the street, shaking my head. It was then that I realized my son is much more Italian than I could ever be. He knows when he has to yell louder and he knows he has to defend his Mamma.
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