Mar 24, 2008


ROME – "I have an hour to cross town, dress for a banquet, then cross town again," I tell the driver.

He shrugs. "It's rush hour. You're already late, then. Relax."

My day had been sidetracked, first by deadlines, then wandering in the sunshine, and finally by old friends at the American Academy in Rome, where I lived from 2000-2001. They hugged me and berated me with entirely sensible statements like, "next time call or email first, so we can spend time with you."

Somewhere around the sambuca con la mosca ("the fly": aniseed liqueur with coffee beans), the statistical improbability of being on time for the gala sunk in. I bolted for the gate and ordered a taxi. Even so, the cause was lost.

"Maybe I can tell everyone I was stuck in traffic," I suggest.

"That excuse always works," the cabbie confirms. "Because Roman traffic is always horrible. For extra drama, you could say we had a mild accident."

Not 45 seconds later, a minivan clips our wing mirror. Such precision slapstick is rare, outside old Chaplin and Keaton films, sadly.

The taxi driver accelerates alongside and cranks down the window. Oh man. Next we'd have to pull over, exchange insurance details, maybe even explain this minor vehicular scuffle to the cops. Italy has at least five brands of polizia: the process never is simple. We could be here all night. Or all weekend.

The cabbie tuts. He wags his finger at the passenger. "Signora," he intones. And then he accelerates over the Tiber River.

"But your mirror..."

"It happens all the time here. This thing, the accident, it's a small misfortune for me. A scratch. But for you, for you it is a beautiful excuse."

He wasn't wrong.


  1. Red-lettered signs alerted incoming innocent visitors to the fact that "The government had fixed tha cab fair from the airport to the centre of town at 30 Euros). Smack bang under the signs, an army of wildly gesticulating cabbies offered anything from 60 Euros to 100. "But the traffic.....petrol mama's birthday..the wing mirror I am going to lose with Amanda....."
    My skirt wasn't short enough to make the 30 Euro thing work...that was until I phoned my invented Roman cousin Guiseppe and complained. Then, only then, and not without a tirade of poverty claims, one of the pack let himself down to do it for 35. *&^$%! They deserve a place in the history books

  2. A friend later told me a lot of the airport cabbies have been arrested for GBH. So I'm glad yours capitulated sweetly.

    I'm sure you pack quite a punch, petal, but it would have rather dampened the hol, no?