Emily Brill

Musings on the Metro

My previous post on public transportation made it perfectly clear that Rome’s subway system is far from flawless.  During the course of the semester, however, I’ve adopted its imperfections and established an endearing repertoire with the transportation system I use most here.

For one, I feel like a local on the metro.  I don’t need to stop and look at the signs to know what direction to go; I can feel it.  The ticket machines gracing the station entrances are useless to me; one swipe of my tessare mensile will do.  Why yes, I do have a need for a monthly pass.

I know my route like I know the cheese section at the local grocery store (perfectly).  This has turned out to be great for my germophobic tendencies.  On the trip from school to home, I can enter the subway last and lean against the door.  The two intermediate stops open on the other side, and the door against which I’m leaning doesn’t again open until the exact moment at which I need to exit.  As long as I get a stable initial footing, I can endure the whole ride without touching any pole or surface.  On the opposing journey, from home to school, I can replicate the situation exactly as long as I cross over to the other side of the car upon entrance.  Call it neurosis, but I call it experience.

I wear my stop as a badge of honor.  “Usciti la prossima?” an elderly Italian woman or slicked teen in too-tight jeans will ask me.  “No, I am not getting off at Ottaviano or Colosseo with the rest of the tourists,” I will smugly think to myself.  “My stop is Cipro, and only real Italians (and American study abroad students) have a use for this station.”

Riding the subway everyday is like taking a course in the people of Rome.  I vacillate between listening to music and eavesdropping on the bits of conversation I am able to translate.  I like to think tuning into my iPod makes me seem totally unenthused by the system that unnerves many, although doing such prevents me from fully appreciating the people around me.  It’s a precarious balance that I endeavor to manage everyday.

Each morning, upon my descent into the underbelly of Rome, at the Cipro station that I claim as mine, I catch a glimpse of St. Peter’s off in the distance and the seemingly tiny ball resting on top of the cupola that actually weighs two tons.  Especially now, as my time in Rome is quickly waning, I take this as a daily reminder of the wonder and inimitability of the Eternal city.  It’s true that I would never advise replicating this only-adequate system, but I’m starting to realize I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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