On the Italian Public Transportation System

God help us all.
[Week 11] What the bus looks like when it isn’t rush hour. You can tell, because I managed to get on it.
And after a weekend gallivanting all over Perugia, we are back in Roma Capitale and life is back to dealing with the Roman public transportation system also known as ATAC.

The best way to describe ATAC is through a story. This afternoon, after class at Viale Pola, I decided to get over my phobia of the Poste Italiane and go pay our Telecom Italia bill. The trip to the nearest post office should have been simple, I could take a bus— any bus— from Nomentana and switch to either the 3 or 19 to traverse Viale Regina Margherita, and from there walk to the post office on Via Yser, 4. The trip should have taken all of eighteen minutes.

Long story short, the bus never arrived. No bus arrived. The three waiting sheds along the Nomentana-Villa Torlonia stop slowly filled up with people, students, workers, nonnas. A nonna asked me if the buses were on strike today and I said no, to my knowledge, today was a perfectly normal day.

As I was getting ready to walk the 2km distance instead, a small rickety shuttle pulled up. It had a paper taped to the front windshield, with “90” written on it in pen. The shuttle was packed so tight that outlines of shoulders and butts were clearly visible— it was almost Jackson Pollock the way body parts merged into one another. I could see the people waiting at my stop squaring their shoulders, ready to get into the “bus” no matter what it took. In my head I thought, nope.

After the half hour walk to the post office and the hour-long wait, I decided that I deserved a nice meal from Asian Delight in the city center. Getting there from LUISS should have been simple, just hop on the 360 and get off at the XX Settembre stop and voila, delicious home-cooked rice meal goodness!

After waiting at the stop for a few minutes, it slowly dawned on me that this situation seemed very familiar. The street corner was slowly filling up with LUISS students and workers and some people from the carabineri office nearby. More nonnas came, bless their traveling hearts. People started walking back and forth across the street waiting for a sign of salvation— but none was to come. I waited at the stop until half-past five, and then thought, nope, this isn’t going to happen.

I then walked down Viale Romania in the direction of home half hoping maybe the bus would arrive but that hope was futile.

Compound this with my regular bus, the 53, which should show up every 20 minutes but ends up as an almost hourly thing, and the general compact feeling one gets when pressed against the side of a moving vehicle— or worse, the crotch of some Italian man­— and the monthly transport strikes, well. It’s a miracle people actually get anywhere in this city. In sum, parang MRT lang.

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