Rome

Vespa conversations

Watching vespas jockey for position as they barrel down the Lungotevere, one realizes these fearless riders are indeed the cultural (if not genetic) inheritants of the whole Ben-Hur business of chariot racing.

Equally striking are the sharp yells and shouts piercing the din of scooter-noise: Some of it is just two chatty riders on the same bike, of course, but I’ve also seen solitary riders screaming monologues as they zoomed past.

Now, drop me into that Italian two-stroke Circus Maximus, and I’d no doubt wail like the lot of ‘em – in fear – but even then I could never match the emotional intensity of the Romans. The riders I’ve seen shouting aloud remind me more of ‘colorful’ old Berkeley, where large portions of the sidewalk citizenry engage in similarly loud dialogues with parties neither present nor real.

All of which i just discovered to be just half-true here: Turns out it’s de riguer for motorino pilots to squeeze, wiggle, and jam their teensy cellphones beneath their helmets, so they’re barely visible, but flush-up against the ear.

This, you see, lets them yap away on the cell tel. all the way to work (just like any other commuter), while it’s the ambient noise, of course, which necessitates the strange and dopplered yelling that I, odd pedestrian out, kept hearing on my morning stroll.

Restaurant touts vs. fresh peas
Emelyn Story

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