When In Rome: The Dangers Of Gesticulation

An argument started. It was, stereotypically, between two Italian men and, stereotypically, involved a lot of hand waving.

We were on a city bus in Rome, having walked away the day between all the sights one sees in the Eternal City. It was summer, which means in Rome it was sweltering. The crowded, hectic city was abuzz and we soaked it all in. Gelato here. Gelato there. Maybe a few historical sights in between gelato...par for the Roman course. By mid-afternoon we were drenched in sweat from our explorations and so we decided to catch a bus across the city and back to our tiny hotel and its grumpy manager.

Somewhere along the way a group of men got on the bus, though their friend was left at the stop. The straggler ran beside the bus, shouting and banging on the door. His friends on the bus started yelling at the driver to stop and wait, but the man would take no heed. I'm sure drivers get yelled at all the time so he was in no mood to stop for every single person who missed the bus. And so, the argument continued for several blocks while we passengers did our best to mind our own business, though everyone was watching and listening as the conversation grew heated, even for Italian standards.

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Eventually, the driver stopped the vehicle. He had caught sight of some police officers – a lot of them, in fact – and decided to park the bus and alert them to the heated situation. He yelled out the window to the police officers as we stopped on a rather steep hill, holding up the traffic behind us. The driver then shoved passed his angry nemeses and marched off the bus toward the police. Unfortunately, he didn't set the parking brake. We started to roll.

We quickly picked up speed and rolled down the street. I wasn't too worried because there were plenty of cars behind us to impede our descent down the hilltop, though I did keep an eye out of the back window as everyone started to shout and scream. A woman on a scooter dodged the bus as it steamrolled her direction, and another rider followed her lead. He was mere inches away from having his legs crushed by the bus but managed to escape with just a gash as we slammed into the car behind us. And it into the cars behind, and so on. Fortunately for us, there were already over a dozen officers in the area and no one was seriously hurt.

We hopped off the bus in one piece. So much for public transportation in Rome.

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