Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Roma E' Strana

That means Rome is weird. It's not such a bad thing. You see, I got tagged by Finny Knits for the "Six Weird Things About You Meme" and since I tagged Finny a while back, it's only fair that I play along. But, Dio Mio, says I! Who wants to know weird things about me? This is a respectable Rome-themed blog and so I'm not telling, unless you come to Rome yourself and buy me a nice glass of wine--I'll even let you choose what kind. After last week's Wine Series, you're schooled and ready to go, right?

So, in keeping with my blog theme, I'm going with a modified version: "Six Weird Things About Your City Meme." And here are the slightly modified rules.

THE RULES: Each player of this game starts with the 6 weird things about their city. People who get tagged need to write a post of their own 6 weird things as well as state this rule clearly. In the end, you need to choose 6 bloggers to be tagged and list their names. Don't forget to leave a comment on each of their blogs telling them they have been tagged, and tell them to read your blog, leaving a hyperlink to your post if possible.

Let us not forget that I've already shared my Ten Things I Will Never Understand About Rome. But those were curious mysteries I have absolutely no answer to, while these are just plain curiosities, whether we can explain them or not. So here's my official weird ("unique"? "special"?) list.

1. Il Parcheggiatore

This is a mythical figure here in Rome, of utter and complete annoyance. You're in your car, looking desperately for a parking spot. A kind of shady-looking character standing in a parking spot (often one marked by blue lines meaning it's a city-mandated spot and costs 1 EUR an hour) starts waving you over. "Ehi, capo! Vieni!" (Hey, boss, over here!) You think, OK, now that's a public parking space. Outta my way, buddy. But no! You see, this is his JOB. He "parks" people. Abusivamente. Illegally. The parcheggiatore abusivo does pretty well, because if you don't pay him a euro or two for "finding" you a spot, he just might key your car, or something equally lovely. Now, in my neighborhood, where it's virtually impossible to find a spot, these guys turn up on occasion in a couple of parking areas. I generally don't need to park where they hang out, but if I am desperate and it's the only spot I can find, you better believe I'm not paying them. I pretend I don't hear them. This is one of the benefits of having a 15-year old car whose 6-month insurance payment is more than the total value of the car itself.

Speaking of parking, just for fun, here's a video you may not have seen on Finny's blog. Her plan was to film how incredibly impossible it is to find parking in my neighborhood (I'm behind the wheel), but instead the parking gods smiled down on us and we found a spot just waiting for us.

2. Umbrellas, bubble guns, and possessed kitties.

When it rains, umbrella sellers mysteriously appear everywhere. When it's sunny, they sell guns that make electronic noises and shoot bubbles. That is, when they're not selling battery-operated velvet kitties that make scary meowing noises and have red eyes, or a plastic Smart car model that they place in a shoebox top so that it can run up against the borders of the box, making honking noises and opening and closing its doors.

Behold this picture as evidence:

Walking across Tiber Island one day, I find this guy amusing himself by shooting his bubble gun for sale. There are a million and one of these street hawkers and apparently they all get their merchandise from the ACME Junk Warehouse. Who BUYS this stuff? And WHERE do they all congregate to automatically switch all of their various merchandise to only umbrellas of every shape and size at the first sign of rain? Mah! Mistero.

3. Taking wind.

Romans are pretty funny when it comes to cold temperatures. If you aren't covered up to your chin with a scarf when it's cold, you'll literally catch a cold. "Copriti bene! Prenderai freddo!" (Cover up! You'll catch cold!) was one of the first phrases I learned in Italian, I heard it so often. One time I had an earache for like a week, so I went to the doctor and his first question to me was "Did you take wind?" (Hai preso vento?) What's THAT 'sposta mean? Apparently if your ear "takes wind," meaning if a gust of cold wind happens to blow in your ear, well, it causes a prolonged earache, even for a week or two. I'm not saying this isn't medically valid. I'm no doctor. I just thought it was weird. BTW, the earache went away on its own.

4. Only two subway/underground lines.

It's weird for a huge European capital like Rome. We struggle along with nearly 300 daytime bus lines. It makes for pollution and gridlock, yet, we have just Metro A and Metro B, which only intersect for transfers at one point: Termini train station. And even those two lines took like 20 years to complete, or something ridiculous like that. I'm not going to the trouble to look up the exact amount of time, but trust me, it was a lot. You see, weird thing... every time they start digging, all this stuff from these people who lived here like 2,000 years ago keeps getting in the way.
Wait! Wait! What's that, you say? Metro C? Have a look for yourself:

Here we are in front of the famous "wedding cake," a.k.a. "typewriter," monument to Vittorio Emanuele II in Piazza Venezia, with a nice 'ol barrier explaining to us that "archeological investigations" are taking place for something called METRO C. This would be a third underground line which would serve the historic center which is currently hopelessly underserved by underground. Maybe my grandchildren will be able to take me for a ride. I'm not all that hopeful.

5. A new word for my vocabulary.

Many of you weren't around in the beginning to read my Italglish post. But that's the fun phenomenon of English words or English-sounding words taking on actual meaning in the Italian language. Tracie B. has quite expertly grasped this concept as well. So the new word for my vocabulary, that I learned for the first time the other day, is splatter. As in: SPLAH-ter-uh. As in:

"Have you seen that new movie by Mel Gibson, Apocalypto? I heard it was totally splatter."

"Yeah, I saw it. It wasn't splatter. It was more just trying to show what their lives were really like. Ok, it was kind of splatter. But it was splatter with a point."

Any guesses as to what this might mean? If you guessed "gory" or something approximating graphic scenes of violence, you'd be right. Or, as this Italian Wikipedia entry states, "a type of film genre born out of horror, which produces ultra-realistic violence through special effects, such as spraying blood." Splatter. Gotta love it.

6. Grocery shopping.

Why do I have to bag my own groceries? Why do the cashiers here sit down when in the States they are almost always standing? (A couple of my various jobs to earn money to come back to Italy was as both a grocery store cashier and a bagger for 5 months, so... I'm just a tad jealous.) Why do I have to pay 5 cents per bag? (I've already ranted about this somewhere.) Why do I have to wear plastic gloves when I touch the fruit and why do I have to weigh it myself, trying to remember the number of my fruit or vegetable so I can enter it on the scale? Weird.

There's my six, in no particular order of weirdness and basically as they sprung to mind. Personally I can't be bothered to tag anyone else. But if you want to list your own, by all means! And you can surely steal my modified rules and tag other people. Leave a comment with the hyperlink to your post.

Viva la strana!


J.Doe said...

I always wondered myself about needing plastic gloves to touch the fruit. They says it's for sanitary reasons, but don't people wash the fruit at home after they buy it?

Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

Totally! This is what I've always thought too. Then you see these big signs next to the gloves, "YOU MUST WEAR GLOVES BEFORE TOUCHING PRODUCE." and it's like, geez, back off, people! I'm always afraid if I sneak an orange in the bag w/o using the glove that some old lady is gonna come over and yell at me...

the preppy princess said...


Isma said...

Strange how the guys with the meowing velvet kitties and the dancing Barbie dolls seem to have invadedir Paris's metro too !
Their warehouse must be located somewhere between Rome and Paris... in the Alps maybe ? ;-)

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

Okay I understand selling umbrellas but what is the deal with the bubble making machines? Who buys those things?

Shirley said...

What I can't understand is that we are supposed to wear gloves, yet it is OK for the deli assistants not to when handling the cold meats! Doesn't make sense like alot of things.

tracie b said...

must wear gloves for the fruit, but touch a piece of raw chicken and your free to cross-contaminate your whole kitchen! ew

the contradictions!

FinnyKnits said...

You're so good to play along - in your own HRM-appropriate way. I, of course, find all of these Rome weirdnesses fabulously confusing and interesting.

How long did it take you to go into a grocery store with crazy "service" like that? I'd end up starving after the great service we have here. Although, I do get the evil eye every time I use my cloth bags at the store.

SilBsAs said...

Brava!!...ho scoperto tuo blog un'ora fa e continuo a leggere i posts che mi ricordano mio ultimo viaggio a Roma nel 2006...

Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

Oh, you guys are good. No, great! I was laughing out loud at your comments. Yes, the insanity of it all. You've just gotta laugh at it.

Preppy: Grazie!

Isma: So funny, DANCING BARBIE DOLLS? What!? I am with you, there's a secret Alps LAIR where they hide this crap and then try to distribute it to all of us. Resist!

NYC: MY thoughts exactly! I have never once witnessed a purchase. But yet, the merchandise selection never changes. Mistero, I tell you.

Shirley: Good point, good point. But of course you know, "Italian meat is better" and so, contaminant-resistant. Right.

Tracie: Did you know I once heard that Italian eggs don't have salmonella, as in, that's just not possible in OUR eggs? So cross-contamination has definintely not entered into the Italian vocab.

Finny: Oh girl, I'm never going to get used to it. Especially when they bark at me "BUSTA!?!" like I've done something wrong, when in fact all they're asking is if I want a bag, and then they throw them down at me and make me scramble so my groceries don't get mixed up with the next persons'. CHE STRESS!

Michael said...

1. I have always wondered about these things. The umbrella brigade seems to just pop out of nowhere the second it begins to rain. I have theorized that they have undergound hinding spots at every corner, with rain sensors on the streets. When they come out, they come out instantly, and in force.

2. As for supermarkets, the bags drive me nuts! What is the sense of asking me how many bags I want BEFORE you ring up my purchase? I have no idea how many I will need. You sit here all day watching people bag groceries... You tell ME how many I will need. On that subject, I hate having to make sure I have a 2 Euro coin for the cart before shopping. ARGH!

3. Italglish: How about 'Week-Enda' and 'Pic-a-nic-a' or 'Meeeester', or my favorite that goes with Lo Smoking: 'Tight', which I believe is the tails of a Tux.

On that subject, how about all of the things that have 'American' attached to them? You can start a car alla'americana, you can drive like and american (which oddly means to say you are a crazy driver), you can eat American nuts while at a 'Cocktail Bar' (which like all other bars) or at an American Bar, and chew American Gum.

All I will say to close this off is: WHATSAMERICABOY!

sandi @ the whistlestop cafe said...

Great list of weirdnesses!
The secret to the umbrella/sunglasses is the look-out...he must be part Houdini part weatherman.
I bought one of those bubble guns!

Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

Michael: I'm in stitches! You SO get it. Good points I totally forgot about--I have become fairly good at "guessing" my bag quantity, but I've learned to always ask for more than I think I need. Italians tend to stuff those plastic bags to bursting and I'm always amazed how they ask for like 1 or 2 for mega shopping. Of course there's the grannies with the carts too that we didn't talk about, but I love those carts and leave them for my guests in the apartments too! And: shopping carts, good point... annoying when I don't have the change to leave my "CART DEPOSIT." Lame! As if I'm really going to steal the thing, right?

Sandi: You're awesome! You bought a bubble gun! Love it!! How much did they charge you?? Did you have to bargain them down? Secretly I want one of those silly battery-operated Smart cars but I'm kind of embarrassed to buy it... maybe I'll secretly ask Santa next year ;-)

Shelley - At Home in Rome said...

Silbsas: Scusa, ti ho saltato! Benvenuto(a?)!! Sono contenta che sei qua, ci puoi raggiungere nella nostra ricerca della Roma strana... sempre divertente, no?? Non ci mancano mai esempi, quest'รจ sicuro!!

Bongga Mom said...

I first saw your fun meme on Sognatrice's blog,


traced it to you, and was inspired to write one of my own, about a very different city, Manila:


Thanks for the idea, and great blog!

Silbsas said...

Figurati! vivendo qua in Argentina quando sono statA ho visto tante cose diverse...qui,per esempio, al supermarket, la stessa cassiera separa la spesa( pulizia, latticini)e la mette nelle buste!!

Tina said...

I actually like the plastic glove thing.

What I don't like is making my own price tag for produce. SO dumb.

About eggs - the reason Italian/European eggs are safe and not refrigerated is because they are not washed. See, an egg has a membrane around it which prevents germs from entering & harming the baby chicken inside. But when the egg is washed, the membrane is broken and all kinds of germs can enter - hence the refrigeration. (My Italian teacher in Seattle had chickens and told me this)