Living in Rome
Every morning, I cycle from my home in Parioli to Trastevere station to catch the train to Parco de’ Medici where my current office is located. Every morning at about 8am, I lock my bike on a railing next to the scooter parking on the square outside of the station. I usually have a brief and friendly chat with some of the ATAC officers on duty out of their booth there (ATAC is the institution running the public transport network in Rome). I’ve been doing the same routine for about two months now. For me, it is the most convenient way to get to work in a city where public transport is notoriously below standard. As a bonus, I have the joy of crossing the historic centre of Rome every day at a time when it is not yet overcrowded with massive flows of tourists. This is almost the best part of my day. The air is still fresh, the light very clear and the city glowing; in that brief moment, I feel lucky to live in Rome.
Yesterday morning however, one of the ATAC officers spoiled it all. As I was about to lock my bike to the railing, he summoned me to park it somewhere else. I questioned him, asking what difference it made whether I locked it there or somewhere else, to which he replied that it was dangerous for walkers-by. When I asked him how many people got injured because of it in the past two months, he had no answer. He abruptly pointed at another corner where I could park my bike (“Puoi metterla qua la bici”), but I had to highlight to him that there was no railing or pole where I could attach it to. As I was getting increasingly more annoyed, I asked him if he had nothing better to do than pester ordinary people on their way to work in the morning, with something as stupid as the locking of a bicycle. After a few minutes of an inane discussion I don’t want to recall, he began to threaten me that he would call the police to remove it. When I told him that his threat was an abuse of power as he had no authority over me and my bike, he denied threatening me. I could go on with the rest of the conversation, but I would bore my readers if I haven’t already done so. To cut the matter short, I went to lock my bike on the other side of the square, just in front of the station.
I mention it because it is yet another example of abuse from some of the Roman institutions who think they have some power over the residents of the city. That happens every day to many people in Rome, it is pointless and sterile. All it does is to increase the resentment people feel towards the public institutions of the city. Just because a person’s job is to check the purchase and validity of tickets on trains, trams and buses, it doesn’t mean that it has to extend to other areas. Strangely, it is often the middle aged men and women in these institutions who behave like that. Is their frustration so great that they have no other outlet than nagging their fellow citizens? If this is the case, their situation will not improve but worsen because of the animosity they create. An atmosphere of resentment and animosity is good for no one’s soul, so please change your attitude @ATAC.