Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Lessons of via Faentina, part 2

The street where I live becomes my miscreant muse:
the second installment in a series about quality-of-life issues
in the cradle of the Renaissance.

Dear Readers,

Having just survived another morning walk to school with my children, I thought I'd share some more images and thoughts from our daily life on the Autobahn via Faentina.

Since traffic is typically bloodthirsty, it's helpful--to say the least--when the vigili show up to help children and their parents cross the street to get to the elementary school without becoming road kill. I don't have to tell most of you that, when left to their own devices, 99.8% of Italians do not respect pedestrian crosswalks. Or any other traffic rule, for that matter. (One wonders what indeed goes on in those scuole guida).

From via Faentina, there's a small alley which leads to the school, and which is also the road leading to a busy private sports center, a scattering of residences, and eventually the via Bolognese.

Problem is, during school drop-off and pick-up, the alley is supposed to remain clear of vehicles to ensure the safety of the children. Many times we've rounded the corner here only to have a car or moped brake suddenly, missing us by mere inches, and thus adding a few more gray hairs to my head. But if the vigili are there, they sometimes keep the road free (it would be asking too much to have them consistently and vigorously uphold an ordinance)--which also helps.

There is, of course, a sign saying use of the road is forbidden during school entry and exit times, but--surprise!--it goes completely unheeded....

....unless there are vigili there willing to enforce it. What is perplexing to me--but not really, given Italian menefreghismo (roughly: I could give a shit-ism)--is that many of the cars and mopeds careering up and down this alley belong to parents dropping their kids off or picking them up from the school. On some days it's a real slalom: I struggle to keep my kids close and maneuver the alley while an outsize moped bears down on us from the front and another is revving its motor at our backs, jockeying to pass us on either side. Apparently only the safety of their own children matters to these blockheads--the rest of us can just kiss their tailpipes. And so we come to the crux of the matter: attentive vigili are desperately needed in order to ensure the safety of the schoolchildren in this neighborhood.

But most of the time, they don't show up, and we're left to fend for ourselves. For a long time, in the mornings, they'd show up after the last bell had rung (at 8:30)--after the majority of kids were already safe in their classrooms--to assist the departing adults in crossing the street, I presume. Having observed this odd phenomenon for years, I recently spoke up and said something about it (rather politely, I thought) to these uselessly tardy vigili--and was treated to the most disgraceful and wrathful abuse I've ever encountered. To hear them shout out their excuses like defensive and petulant children, you'd never guess that they were public servants--or grown-ups, for that matter. Thus in a fit of pique, I forgot for a moment what country I was in and wrote a letter of complaint to the city, and one to the director of Municipal Police--outlining my concerns over traffic problems in the neighborhood as well. Naturally, I never received a response from either.

While Italians generally adore children, as pedestrians, they, too, count for little in a city where seemingly it's every man, woman and child for themselves

In a country where babies are cooed over--even by grown men--and children and teenagers are coddled and made much of, I am always surprised at how little is done for them on the civic level--whether to ensure their public safety, provide them with free or low-cost wholesome activities (especially during the interminable summer months), or develop more school enrichment programs. But civic-mindedness is not one of Italy's strong suits.

If it were, perhaps a street scene like this would be a rarity instead of the norm.*



*Now throw in some off-leash dogs and sidewalks littered with their droppings, and the picture of civic bliss is complete.

For more Lessons of via Faentina, click on the label below.

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