King of the Road…A Fairy Tale

Once upon a time, not long ago, the people of Rome woke up to find that some kind Being had left an item called a car on their doorsteps.  Despite never having seen one before, had a driving lesson or been informed of the purpose of roundabouts, traffic lights or STOP signs, the people happily leapt into their cars, turned the ignition on, lit up a cigarette and off they went.

garfield car

The people could see many switches and dials in the car but it seemed easier to ignore them.  Occasionally they vaguely wondered if some sort of indicator would have been useful to inform the car behind which lane they planned to drive in (left, right or both lanes at once).  But, fortunately, each driver had located the horn and this served well as a device for warnings, greetings and ‘ciao bella’ signals.

The car was steered by moving the wheel mounted in front of the seats.  The people thought this was a bad design because it was often difficult to steer with one arm hanging out of the window, one hand holding a mobile phone to their ear and one hand holding a cigarette.  [Ed: hang on, that’s three hands.  How do they do that??]  But the people persevered until they had mastered this important skill.  And if they didn’t, well there was always the horn.

The car seemed to go best when it was driven with the accelerator pushed down all the way.  Occasionally a driver would lift his foot from the accelerator and other drivers would press their horn, shout and make gestures at him, before overtaking, preferably on a blind corner or a roundabout.

Although each car had five seats, it was just as easy to drive with six or seven people squashed in.  Extra children could happily sit on laps or stand on the front seat.  Each seat had a belt attached to it but this appeared to have no known purpose.

new driver

If the people had to get out of the car, they always ensured their car was as near as possible to, or actually on, the pavement immediately in front of their destination.  If other cars were already taking up these spaces, that was no problem; they simply left the car in the middle of the road whilst they picked up their newspaper or enjoyed their morning cappuccino.

Instead of cars, some younger people had been given motorini.  These two-wheeled vehicles allowed them even more freedom.  They could ride in between all the cars, overtaking on both sides and riding on the pavement when desired.  A piece of headwear called a helmet was apparently necessary but the people didn’t want to spoil their perfectly coiffured hairstyles so they gently placed it on their heads without pulling it down properly or doing up the strap.   The main disadvantage of the motorini over the car became apparent in the rain, however, the people overcame this difficulty by riding with an umbrella in one hand.

Sometimes visitors came to the city who didn’t have a car.  The people laughed at the visitors because they still had to walk to their destinations.  They were forced to attempt to cross the road at a pedestrian crossing but the people didn’t want to stop their cars for the visitors.  If they stepped onto the pedestrian crossing, the people would drive their cars at around them whilst making strange hand gestures.

The people liked their cars very much and stayed in them as much as possible. They liked being able to wear leather jackets, without ever breaking a sweat, even when the weather was warm.  They liked feeling superior to the pedestrians and using their cars as mobile homes, offices and heat seeking missiles.   Soon they had almost forgotten how to walk.   Now the people live in fear that one day the Being will return for their cars

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31 thoughts on “King of the Road…A Fairy Tale”

  1. Very funny. Lovely fairy story, one for all the family! Having been a pedestrian in Rome, I definitely agree that it’s every man for himself on those crossings. I was once almost mown down by a minibus full of nuns – not sure how they would have explained that one to the Pope!

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  2. I do love the sense of Russian Roulette I get every time I encounter a roundabout. Go when you dare, or wait too long and you will either get the horn, or a stream of cars pushing round you.

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    1. It is terrifying…and that’s why I’ve only driven our car once since we arrived and was a nervous wreck when I returned home after ten minutes. My husband, however, has taken to driving here like a duck to water – he’s the one tailgating police cars and driving faster than all the Italians! We actually shipped our bicycles here from England and used them for one ride in our first week where we genuinely feared for our lives. It was as if Italian drivers had never seen a bike before and wanted to get as close as they possibly could to get a really, really good look! I only use my feet or buses now…

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  3. Ha, ha!!! Brilliant, but I’m not so sure it’s a fairy story, I’ve driven when we went to Sicily, and it was terrifying, and I’m not the nervous type! Mind you, on the way home last night we were behind a car which had mopeds trying to pass on both the inside and the outside, this was at rush hour and on the narrowest, most twisty road, Scary! I did try using a moped when we arrived here, but after managing to end up in a hedge, I decided it wasn’t the best idea I have ever had 🙂 Matt, however was zipping around like a local within 2 minutes of getting on his moped….. hmmm….
    Jane x

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  4. This is hilarious! So wonderfully written. How’s that novel coming?

    I didnt drive in Rome but I DID in Florence and to and from Cinque Terre, and I will tell you right now, if you think Italy is bad, you should come rent a car in Moscow one weekend. Here’s a bit of a spoiler: I have a draft of that post in the works, and it has HELL in the title 🙂

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    1. Ha ha, love the video, so funny!! Today I had feedback from the first person to clap eyes on it – let’s just say there’s a lot of work to be done…

      I can’t even imagine driving in Moscow, how do you cope with all that snow?? I’m looking forward to your post!

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      1. Xanax. I’m not even kidding.
        Re: work to be done – it’s a good thing. It’s progress. I sent the rough draft of my Patriarchy post to my BFF and she got a headache just trying to follow it. That’s why that one post was two weeks in the making! Let alone a NOVEL!
        MAJOR props to you!

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  5. When Jeremy Clarkson retires from his motoring column in the Times, I think you could slot right in there without anybody noticing, maybe even a place on Top Gear, you’d have to come up with a name though, to fit in with “the Hamster” and “Captain Slow”. Answers on a postcard please.

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    1. According to my husband, I drive like a little old woman so I think it would probably be “Driving Miss Daisy”… (and yes, I know it was Morgan Freeman doing the actual driving!)

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  6. Best ever – had to take a break reading this to wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes.

    The start of a book called – the driving cultures of the world by a Being…

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  7. EXCELLENTISSIMO, bella! That was a great take on driving in Italy – I drove in Milan once, I was scared out of my mind. Here in France we also have motorbikes on pavements, particulary when they want to drive the wrong way down one-way streets to save time….

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    1. Well, it is very important that they save a couple of extra minutes, never mind that you have to leap out of their way…and, in Rome, you can guarantee you’ll land in some dog poop 😦

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  8. Hello, new to your blog hence the late comment. This made me laugh out loud- reminds me of the way our friends (and family) drive in Sorrento. Road too narrow to drive up? cross yourself frantically, tuck the wing mirrors in and keep going until sparks fly from the sides of the car. Taking a baby on a journey? let it bounce around on your knee without a boring old seatbelt or car seat while the driver bellows into their mobile phone and takes hairpin mountain bends at 80kph. See a friend passing by in a another car or a motorino? stop in the middle of the road, bellow at eachother and swear like a Neapolitan docker at anyone who hoots. Got to love em!

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    1. Hello to you too! I’m still too scared to drive here, it’s terrifying! Yesterday I found myself shouting and making rude gestures* at a driver who refused to stop and flashed his lights at me as I attempted to cross the road on a pedestrian crossing.

      * Sadly, the only rude gesture I could remember was Ross and Monica’s alternative to giving the finger, so unless the driver was a huge fan of ‘Friends’, he would have been none the wiser!

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