You thought you’ve seen road rage in New York City? Or worse, experienced it yourself in Florida? Well think again. You are blissfully ignorant of the true meaning of the phrase until you have mistakenly stepped in front of a Vespa tearing through the streets of Florence. The main issue here is that Vespas race violently, without warning, from any direction at any given time on even the tiniest streets and alleys, threatening severe/fatal injury to all who obstruct their path. In fact, I’m pretty sure the Italian government uses Vespas as an effective undercover means of American student population control. Therefore, if you are in Florence, alive and breathing, I assume that you either a) haven’t left your apartment yet, which is sad, or b) you have superhuman catlike reflexes which are clearly serving you well, OR c) you don’t have catlike reflexes, have suffered a tragic death-by-Vespa, and are reading this as a ghost, in which case I have numerous questions to ask you that are completely unrelated to this blog.
And here is an interesting plot twist I’ve recently discovered: many of the murderous drivers I’ve witnessed are women. To quote the Italian police officer who gave our program a safety lecture during orientation, “Italian women are-a heartless. They have-a no souls. If you are-a laying on the ground bleeding to death, they-a will not call for you an ambulance.” Apart from the fact that this perception may be a bit out of proportion and/or clouded by a recent break up, I actually realized that this makes a lot of sense. Here’s my theory:
1 woman who has grown up in a society where constantly having her butt pinched by older male strangers on the street is socially acceptable
1 small, easily maneuverable, high-speed motorized vehicle
Zero mercy. Get out of the way. Get out of her way fast.
I have just one more qualm about the commanding presence of the Vespa in Florence, which is precisely this: Vespas provide me with a painful daily reminder that, contrary to my completely reasonable and realistic expectations of this semester, my life here does NOT parallel ‘The Lizzy McGuire Movie.’ Or ‘When In Rome’ (obviously the Olsen twins version, was that even a question?). I’ve seen these films. I know how these things are supposed to work. I’m supposed to immediately happen to meet a young attractive Italian man who teaches me how to ride his Vespa and then takes me on several grand tours of the “real” city. Enter standard adventure-through-Italy-on-back-of-hot-guy’s-Vespa theme music (let’s go with Vitamin C or Green Day) to add some adrenaline to the artsy scene cuts alternating between various breathtaking sights, his beautiful smile, and my hair blowing in the wind as I grip his waist while feigning fear of his playfully reckless driving on a perfect sunny day.
I did not get what I signed up for. After nearly three weeks, I still find myself watching countless guys speed by on their Vespas, the empty back seats mocking me as I shuffle along on the claustrophobic sidewalks. And are any of these Vespa drivers offering me a ride, or even so much as a dreamy three-month romantic fling? No. They are trying to kill me with their deceivingly small death vehicles.