Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Well, it was bound to happen at some point

"Why, Lynne, what was bound to happen?" you just asked yourself.  Come around, friends, as I tell you the horrific incident of my first real Italian car accident.  Mother of pearl.  Buckle in (pun intended) because this one's a doozy!

On our way back from our Christmas Adventure (yes, that's right, I haven't posted that blog spot yet, hold your horses!!), we had gone from Florence to the parking garage on base with our friends, Trish and Peter.  From the base to our house is a very standard 20-60 minute drive, traffic depending.  For whatever stupid reason, I decided to give Tom a reprieve and drove.  It was raining.  This idea was stupid, as I don't see so well at night.  I mean, I can see.  But, in the dark, in the rain, with crazy Italians who seem to have a common death wish, it wasn't my smartest idea.

We drive down this windy, narrow road that, as I've mentioned before, would really be a one way road in America.  In Italy, it's two ways and, as an added bonus, people park on both sides of the street.  It's also steep.  And paved with volcanic rocks which are really slick when it rains.  White knuckles, I made it to the bottom of this road (in previous rain events, I've skidded out and VERY narrowly missed slamming into an Alfa Romeo).  There's a left hand turn onto our road at the bottom, the view obstructed most times by illegally parked cars).  So I stopped fully, looked left, looked right and waited.  The upcoming scooter went behind me to make his left hand turn.  This is really common in Italy, if making a proper left hand turn (i.e. come to the intersection, indicate the direction of travel, turn in front of the vehicle in the opposing lane, complete your turn) just do it whenever and however you feel is the fastest way, regardless of where anyone else is.  I say this not to be mean, it's just seriously a part of the mentality here.  "I need to get to X location, I will get there as fast and however illegal it may be to get there." 

Anywho, I'm waiting to turn, avoided the scooter that turned into my passenger side and then behind me.  That's cool, you just do whatever you want.  But at this point, I was creeping into the intersection and everyone stopped.  So I started to go.  And bam.  I hit the scooter that was trying to pass in front of me, mid-left hand turn.  I was honestly going like 3-6 kilometers (which is like 1-3 MPH) and it was such a tiny love tap.  But the guy, his wife, and their scooter went down.  And I screamed.  "Where the F$#% did that guy come from?? [don't tell my mom, but insert LOTS of expletives here]!!!"  At this point, it's pouring.  Like apocalypse pouring.  The guy jumped up and started kicking my car, pounding on the windshield, and screaming.  We were blocking 2 lanes of traffic, it was pouring, and a crazed Italian man was destroying my car, while his wife lies on the ground, under a scooter in the middle of the road.  Tom ran to help the wife out from under the scooter and move her to safety.  Her darling husband at this point was in front of me, shoving me, screaming and then grabbed my face and shook it, as if to imply that I wasn't paying attention.  I'd like to say that I calmly reacted or flipped out in anger.  No, I just started crying.  I was face grabbed!!  Seriously??  And shoved.  And Gabby, my poor, beat up Honda Civic was kicked and beaten. 

Tom moved our car, we pulled the scooter out of the street (this took about 5 minutes, all the while every car in our neighborhood, regardless of their involvement or delay, started honking) and we all stood in the pouring rain.  I was wearing suede smoking loafers, which were promptly destroyed.  My coat was in the car.  I had my cell phone and the Italian man continued to yell at me.  I didn't understand it all but "cativa" means "evil" and I know he called me that about 1,000 times.  He then went into full Italian soccer player dramatic reaction, laying on the ground, dry heaving, his wife lifting his legs in the air and doing the sign of the cross multiple times.  The phrase "mamma mia" was muttered or screamed so many times, I lost count.  Passers by stopped to ask what was wrong.  Friends of the scooter driver stopped by and took turns reminding me, in various levels of polite, that this couple had kids and who did I think I was???  Damn Americans, or some similar sentiment was brought up as many times as the sign of the cross.

Despite calling the emergency translators that we have at our disposal being Americans with the US Government overseas, they didn't arrive for nearly 2 hours, during which time, the couple and their friends were trying to talk me into taking this guy to the hospital.  "It's what you do in Italy, he has kids.  You must take him to the hospital."  Yeah, I wasn't going to do that for Mr. Face Grabbing Shover.  You'll pull through, buddy.  At one point, an ambulance stopped by but then realized that this wasn't the call that they were actually called to, so they left.  This was 1 hour and 10 minutes after we called them.  At 1 hour and 35 minutes, an ambulance showed up and took the guy and his wife away.  After 2 hours, the translator showed up.  After 2.5 hours, the Italian police showed up.  And made me sit in the back of an Italian cop car.  Seriously?

And the statement that was translated began with: "While driving my husband's car with his permission and supervision..."  It's my car.  I bought it when I graduated from college all on my own.  And financed it.  And paid almost as much per month as my rent when I was making pennies in Cary, NC.  But, that's fine.  We'll call it my husband's car.  They also pulled Tom in and repeatedly asked "Commandante, why you let your wife drive?"  The idea of a woman driving the massive tank that is a Honda Civic was beyond comprehension.

3 hours after the incident, totally soaked, with every drop of water left in my tear ducts left somewhere along our street, we got home.  Our amazingly dedicated friends, Kim and Nathan, to whom we can never repay enough, came to our aid for moral support and a well charged cell phone.  They listened as I sobbed about how in America, this whole fiasco would take about 40 minutes tops and how much I hate this horrible city and how ready I was/am to go back to the US.  And patted me on the back and told me it would all be alright.  Those are the kinds of friends that you are grateful to know for always.  Kim and Nathan, thank you so very much for putting up with our crazy!!!  (more mine than Tom's really!)

So that's the story of that time that I hit a scooter who was illegally passing me in the middle of a turn and not yielding the right of way to a car that out-weighed his by a factor of 20, if not more.  Tom's forced me to drive again, promising that getting back on the horse will help.  I've found a new route home that doesn't involve making left hand turns.  I'm the Derek Zoolander of our neighborhood.  "I bet there's a lot of people who can't turn left."  I'm with you, Derek.  Left hand turns ARE hard!

Xoxo from crazy land!


  1. Oh my! That was my worst nightmare-waiting-to-happen while we were in Italy. Has there been any follow up from the Italian authorities? Citations/insurance claims/lawsuits/Mafia hits ? - Jack

    1. No follow up from the Italians. We filed a report with our insurance and had to submit a FOIA request to get the police report. Needless to say, I'm back to the level of overly cautious that makes me hated in our neighborhood. It's just a matter of time before someone smashes out our windows. Again. You miss Naples yet, Jack???