Saturday, January 23, 2016

Driving Italian Style

Open Spaces of Colorado Rockies
In a few days I will be tested behind the wheel to complete my driving exam.  I will drive for at least 20 nervous minutes in the school car.  I have been informed that at any time the esaminatore (guy with clipboard) can stop the exam and I must exit the car ashamed to have failed the test.  Many do.

The drive will be in the center of Padova, known for its busy one way streets,  lanes where cars are excluded open only to buses, or open only to residents of that area, multiple roundabouts, pedestrian walkways, and street lights that operate separate lanes only.  Because I am a right sided brained thinker and visually see all parts without much distinction (I know that is not a great description, but means my brain gets overloaded with lots of “stuff” in view), I have to really concentrate.  My driving instructor thinks I am very nervous, and he nailed that one on the head!  Also what makes me nervous is that I only get two chances to pass the driving part of the test and if I am sent home in shame I will have to start completely over, kick in another pile of euros, maybe another 400 euros—I don’t even want to know this exact price!!

Colorado Plains east of Rockies from Trinidad
I dream of driving my car on the roads of Colorado and New Mexico, or even the freeways of Los Angeles in comparison to the streets of Padova.  Ah, the big wide lanes, the “out in the open” feeling, and the much less intense driving.  Included in this blog are some fotos of my dreaming…..My Russian buddy, Albert knows this feeling.  He would love to live and drive in America.

Keep in mind that in all my years of driving in the states I have never had an accident and never received a ticket for driving badly- - and that’s a lot of years….since 1963.   My children used to joke that I drive too safe like a grandpa.  I am totally a defensive driver, nothing like the aggressive Italians.

I am pressured by my strong arm instructor’s voice to always move my head 
 (exaggerating a lot) when changing lanes, turning, etc. and to not just look in all the mirrors because  the examinatore will be hunting for this, hoping to catch me not stretching my neck to see out the window.  However, behind me on the left this attempt  is useless as the Opel I am driving has  conveniently placed the bar between the driver door and the back passenger window and my view is blocked.  I am still forced to play the game and look backwards as if I am Superman and can clearly see through everything perfectly. 

During my last practice drive I drove to a crosswalk and stopped for the light located on the right side. It was the only traffic light  I could see  because my big head ,when turning left ,could only see objects at chest level (I am 6 feet tall, shoved into a tiny European quasi-clown car situated at the level of a sports car).  I am waiting for the light to change to green and suddenly the instructor commences with his loud voice urging me to go.  I say, “non posso andare!”… he points to my left and says the light is green. I wonder what he is pointing at, and suddenly realise that there must be a traffic light on my left but way above  my view through the window.   I show him by pointing  that my view is blocked by the roof of the car, etc.  He says some quick fired words in a low voice, probably describing my inabilities, which makes me not just nervous but a bit pissed off as he is a little sucker and he can see out perfectly and I, being an average Americano cannot see out of his cheap-assed squat sized school car.  With our fake smiles we move on.

We continue driving to the street of the auto school (the most busy, two lane one way street in Padova)  and park on the left sidewalk.  The instructor guides me where to stop, and he tells me to turn off the car.  I have a problem with this because just outside my door is a big post, not high enough for him to see.  This would keep me trapped because the door cannot open.  I explain to him several times in my Americanized Italian accent that I am “bloccato” until he  finally gets it.  (My Italian accent is not the Veneto accent… do you want to hear the Veneto accent?  Go sit in a dentist chair with your mouth full of cotton and the sucking hose and the assistant’s hand in your mouth!   Try to speak clearly when dentist asks you how are you doing. Seriously, Veneto sounds like that.  No consonants.  A lotta whaahuahffaeeaho!  (Three words all together)  When people of the Veneto switch to speaking Italian they keep that Veneto accent just like a Texan reading Shakespeare.    Funny that people of the Veneto think that Romans and Tuscans have a thick Italian accent.   When we watch an Italian movie on television my wife (of the Veneto) has some difficulty understanding actors from Sicily…. like I have trouble understanding some British accents.

Today I am practicing at my dinner table how to explain all the items inside the car and how they function, what happens when you push this button, adjust that light, blow the air in different directions, how to make the wipers work, with or without detergente, how to turn on the fog lights, direction lights, and even adjusting the light direction when having a heavy load in the car.  
I will have to do all this with the examinatore before I am allowed to drive the car.  It all begins with explaining how I cram  myself into the car and adjust my seat so that I can drive “correctly” with wrists across the top of the steering wheel when totally adjusted.  Then I will have to open the hood and explain in Italian where to add oil, detergente, brake fluid, explain the reason why we don’t put water in the wiper fluid (limestone blocks the holes), etc.   Then I will have to explain what all those numbers on the tires mean…right down to date of construction.  You know that 225 R17 business that we never think about much, Italians know those numbers and what they mean.

The next to last thing I will be tested on is the carta di circolazione.. which is like the registration paper, but much more detailed.  Size of tires that can only be used, date of sale, number of passengers to be inside, the power in kilowatts (beginner drivers like me here can only drive in a car below 55 kilowatts—they don’t use horsepower here) Yes at my age I will be a beginner for three long years.  Plenty of Rules in Italy!
Hopefully the last thing I will have to demonstrate will be to show the examinatore where all the lights are located outside the car and be able to name them in Italian, clearly if I get to this point it should be the easiest of all things that I must know.  

All the while I am studying for the exam I think of the small manual for driving that I used in Colorado, it must have been about 35 pages of rules, and I studied it for 45 minutes in order to change my license from California to Colorado.  The Italian manual that I had to purchase at the local bookstore is 367 pages in length.  It took a long time to translate all 365 pages, and I am not just talking a few months.  Grazie Dio for the folks at Google Translate! 

If you read this and you hear someone make a negative comment about those Italian drivers, tell them to read my blog.  Italian drivers are well informed and jump through a lot of hoops to have the privilege to drive.  I soon hope to be one of them, as I have been jumping hoops, too.  Older people have more difficulty jumping!
Please feel free to make a comment below by clicking on word “comment”.
Just over those peaks is Aspen, Colorado
This is gold country, near Lake Taylor

1 comment:

Kerry Sayers said...

Oh my goodness! I cannot believe what anyone driving in Italy has to go through. I would have given up long ago!! Huge congratulations on passing!!