Posted: Nov 22, 2008 6:58:51 AM
I've always aimed to make these travel reports different from the ordinary "we went here, we did this." With only a few exceptions, we have been visiting places that everyone visits in Rome: the Pantheon, the Colosseum, the Vatican, the Museo Borghese, the Sistine Chapel. What can I say about this gorgeous art that hasn't already been said?
So instead, this report is about the other people, the people who are also visiting the places that everyone visits. And how annoying they can be.
Now, before you begin to worry, we are having a fantastic time, and Rome is just as romantic, mysterious, and epic as ever. But people inevitably niggle, and here's how.
Dante Alighieri's Inferno speaks of the sixth circle of Hell, wherein heretics are condemned to sit for all eternity in the middle seat of an airplane, neither aisle nor window. There are few benefits to this position on a long-distance flight, save the fact that (I believe) you should be entitled to more armrest space. So, on our first flight, the duel for the armrest began!
The gentleman sitting next to me read newspapers the entire flight, and this meant that he spread out whenever and however possible. Whenever my arm left the rest, his shoulder occupied it. Whenever he moved, to get a drink or go to the bathroom, my arm returned. Back and forth for ten hours, neither of us relenting, neither of us ever looking at the other or even acknowledging the other's presence (this is normal on long flights). But the duel continued.
For the most part our visits have been blissfully queue-free, even at such notorious places as the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums. But we did have to queue for forty minutes to get into St. Peter's Basilica, and there we encountered another etiquette gladiator. This one was a lady in a green jacket, who insisted on sidling around people as she advanced slowly up the line. Eyes always forward, blithely not noticing the hundreds behind her.
Well, we can't have that. Siobhan and I embarked on a campaign of edging her out. Once again, no speaking, just shoulders and body language. Centimeters became essential - any gap, and we would've just been moved backwards. We weren't the only ones to notice this lady, so she was in effect fighting against the whole queue in her impatience.
We managed to keep her behind us all the way to the front. At which point an old nun wandered casually in front of us. An old, frail, kindly-looking nun. In this duel, I know when I'm beat.
Once inside, we ran into the lady in the green jacket several times (I even have a photo of her touching the foot of Arnolfo di Cambrio's statue of St. Peter), and each time I dropped her a casual baleful stare. Some may remember my torment by Pringles in England, and I approached this the same way.
We actually had one person successfully cut in line ahead of us, an Italian chap at a Spizzico fast food outlet. Siobhan made some rather insulting comments about him, loud enough to be overheard, but once again we all stared straight forwards. To acknowledge the other person is perhaps the fastest way to lose a duel.