Dirty windshields, garages and cigarette butts…?
Yes, because illegality is very much at home in Rome.
I love my car, but it’s pretty dirty right now. From time to time yellowish Saharan sand rains down here overnight, and all the dust-covered cars in the morning queues look like survivors from an apocalypse. However, getting it washed is near impossible if you have appointments to rush to, and hosing it down on your own in the street, or pouring a bucket on it from one of the lovely history-carved fountains dotting the city is illegal. The local car-wash is still on Easter holiday backlog.
Residential condominiums are meant to have a garage for each apartment, which would solve the problem altogether. But developers skim off lots of extra revenue by selling the garages as warehouses, which can morph over time into little supermarkets. This leaves you with no garage and the attendant daily heroic adventures in search of a parking space on returning to your neighbourhood at nightfall. You’re also woken up by the rumbling and whining refrigerated trucks stocking up the basement supermarket at the crack of dawn, or worse, on Sunday mornings. Some supposed-to-be garages have turned into gyms, and they tell me evening crowds of fitness freaks can be just as noisy.
To go back to my car, one of the many illegal but useful trades in this city is windshield-cleaners at traffic lights. Large crossroads are the personal or clan turf of immigrants who, rain or shine, wave their sponge-tipped broomsticks at you rather aggressively and start splashing suds whether you want them to or not – usually you don’t and have no change anyway. But following some kind of algorithm of random probabilities, when you need them, not one to be seen anywhere, not even on an hour-long drive across the whole town.
Illegality is rampant at all levels, top, middle and bottom. Top meant as the people presumably running this city, involved in the “Mafia Capitale” investigations and corruption trials you can look up online elsewhere. Middle stands for the middle-men, the all-round networking and contacts experts without whom nothing big or small ever gets done here. And at the bottom rung, micro-illegality flourishes too, and contributes to making this city one that’s often a pain to navigate in daily life.
I just forgot a lovely scarf in the rest-room of a restaurant and rushed back shortly after, but it was gone. Lost and found is not part of the culture. Besides, honesty isn’t taken for granted either. The law states that if you lose something and someone returns it, you have to pay them 5% of the value of the lost object! I thought it was a joke, but it isn’t.
There are laws against all kinds of socially harmful behavior, but no or rare instances of enforcement. In many cases average citizens are quite unaware these laws even exist. For example, last February 2nd, throwing a cigarette butt in the street became an offense you can be fined up to € 300 for, but you’d never tell by the spreads of butts that continue to accumulate on sidewalks and gutters in front of bars, restaurants and shops. Not to mention the car doors opening at a red light to allow a hand to drop the contents of a whole ashtray onto the road.
Ah. The Great Beauty…
Does any of this surprise you, or are these behaviours you’re familiar with?
Haphazard selection of photos: © 14thcountry.com