Baby, You Can Drive Your Car

Driving into Rimini the other night, I saw a road sign that made no sense. To me the sign said, like, Do something. Or possibly, Don’t do something. And do it, or don’t do it, soon after you see this sign. Maybe right way. I didn’t do anything. In so not doing, I figured I had a 50 percent chance of being right. This is my modus operandi. Don’t do anything, and don’t do it very slowly so you can change course if needed. 

There are lots of “don’t” signs in Italy, with a slash or bar indicating the negative. It’s what’s underneath the slash that can be hard to decode. These signs give me pause. I just don’t know why I’m pausing.

This one I get:

Then there are directional signs that try very hard to be helpful:

Which side of the bed do you sleep on:

Hours of the day you can use your hammer(s):

A space where painting is acceptable. And what all of us are trying to avoid. 

Water on the road? Lotsa cars?

Neti pot zone, no Roman numerals zone, decreasing barbershop zone, yellow and/or non-yellow zone.

The car I’m driving this trip is a Lancia Epsilon. Motor1.com describes it as an “aging city car” and as a “somewhat cute city car.” It has a three cylinder engine that generates 69 horsepower. I guess it is also hybrid. Next to the fuel gauge on the dash is a battery gauge, both the same size. So something electric, and equal opportunity, is going on.  I just don’t know what. “The revised front bumper,” Motor1 says about Epsilon, “looks like it’s smiling at you.” 

Most of the time in Italy you want a car the size of a roller skate. The back roads are narrow, just wide enough for you and a bus and a heart attack. In town Epsilon is easy to park. Years ago, when both our kids and a fiance came over with us, I rented a full size, five-passenger car, someone’s answer to the Chevy Caprice. I’d pull into an urban parking lot and look for a space large enough for this behemoth. It was like floating a barge into harbor. 

For expressway driving, the roller skate is okay. As long as you know your place. The big guys, the wide low road cars, burn up the left lane at 160-200 km/hr, and they do not want to see a somewhat cute city car in front of them. You catch on to this idea fast.

When I first started driving over here, I’d be driving along on the Autostrada doing 90 km/hr, calculating conversions in my head. Let’s see, what’s 160 km/hr in mph? And while we’re at it, if it’s 12 degrees Fahrentheit, what is that in Centigrade? Enjoying that math, in the left lane, while behind me, headlights flashing angrily, a guy was coming up behind me doing 100 mph. If you hang in the left lane doing 90 km/hr, just cruising along mindlessly the way we tend to do in the US, expecting to be passed on the right, you are a pariah. No one passes on the right here. If you’re going to go slow, stay in the right lane. The left lane is for FAST.

I imagine a resourceful Italian, or committee of Italians, gifted in the visual arts, has pictured a helpful road sign, a little tiny smiling city car, a red circle around it and an emphatic black slash. Stay out of the left lane. They’re not saying please.  

I did a little research, figuring I should become sign literate. Wikipedia took me to a site where there are 319 Italian road signs. Too many. I’m going to stay the course. Don’t do anything, and don’t do it very slowly so you can change course if need be. Unless I find myself in the left lane on the Autostrada. Then I move over. Fast.

 

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