Thursday, November 5, 2009

Parkering for a stork

Restrictions and limitations on driving have also reached our southern Italian town. Previously, you could turn on the hazard lights and leave the car in the middle of the main streets for short spells of 5-10-15 minutes even if it blocked the traffic, but now all of a sudden the city council has introduced parking metres. You can’t even drive to the bakery without paying.

The new rules require some behavioural adjustments and give rise to some pretty entertaining side effects. For instance at the butchers, where housewives used to wait their turn with quiet patience. Now customers are constantly trying to jump the queue and cheat themselves in front of each other. Every ten minutes one or the other woman dashes out of the shop to feed another 10 cent in the parking metre, returning breathlessly a few minutes later to resume her place in the queue. This is clearly distressful for the butcher, who takes a slow pride in everything pertaining to his trade. Lately he seems to have developed tick around one eye, and the glasses constantly dangling below his nose does not seem to help.

Meanwhile shoppers vent their frustration about the new parking regulations. There are endless complaints about the parking fee of around 40 cents per hour, not to mention the fine of 38 euros, if we forget to pay and park illegal for a few minutes. The general harassment of motorists seems to have gone so far that it is no longer worthwhile to use the car for local shopping. Those of us who live in the country outside city limits also encounter the problem, because the free parking spaces in the outskirts, where we used to park, are now occupied all day by working people.

The only ones exempt from the new rules are pregnant women and new mothers. They have their own dedicated parking spaces with pink signs depicting a stork with baby. So at least there is a sense of humour in the new parking regime.

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