Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Highbrow

The subway is not my preferred method of travel; a favored commute would integrate the backseat of a Mercedes, a mimosa, and a driver whose character was determined by British accent and vinyl hat.

We should all be so lucky.

I was not always disenchanted by the metropolitana Milanese. 
Having just escaped a city with an unforgivably chimeric public transportation system, I was originally quite happy to abandon responsibility for ensuring the correctness of my own transfer. Descending into the underworld, pumping in a few coins, taking a handful of minutes to turn off my brain, then ascending into a backdrop decidedly different from the one I had just descended, felt technologically quite avante garde to me.

But like most my experiences, it did not take long for my enthusiasm to fade and my interest to wither. I began to find the metro filthy and slow. Too hot. Overcrowded. I came to resent the fact that it didn't supply all the pockets of Milan I wished to explore. And what had initially struck me as a cheap ride, somehow became the embodiment of robbery. 

I am not a positive person. No, I am actually quite a negative person. However I am also quite selective about those issues I choose to complain about publicly.  Previously I would have considered my feelings on the topic not appropriately impassioned enough for public forum, but recently my threshold was met:

Perhaps through the glare of entropy and disbelief, you cannot understand what is happening here, so I will tell you.

It was an extremely hot and muggy day, (keep in mind that Italians already tend toward problems recognizing the horror that manifests under those folds where their arms meet their torso) I walk onto the metro, take a seat. Through the fray (loaf of bread, baby stroller, baby itself, sweatpants, other items of cotton origin, more groceries), lay an obese woman on the lap of her smelly friend, while that same amica unabashedly plucked her eyebrows. She was so dispossessed of social etiquette that between each extraction, she wiped  the root of the hair off on her skirt. I considered whether I could have maintained the fortitude to contain my inclination to scream for the entirety of the journey. 

I forced myself into happy escape, and dreamt of other modes of travel. 

The bicycle (or "cyclette" as I've heard some Italians endearingly translate it) outshines even the most leathery and tinted of German sedans. You've seldom seen something so romantic as an Italian riding his bike past a 13th century gothic cathedral in the late summer sun. 

While I do believe that when you really want something, the universe conspires in your favor, I still found myself surprised when my imagined escape from eyebrow to highbrow landed me at the front desk of Biciclette Rossignoli. As a matter of serendipity, Giulio had commissioned for me a custom-designed set of native Italian-speaking olive and tan wheels!

A cocktail was in order and we decided it was a perfect chance to ride our twin cyclettes to the Navigli (which in spite of its being a cesspool for rats harboring Listeria, is actually deservedly one of the most celebrated regions of the city.)

Though the alcohol served to somewhat dampen my nerves, it could not overcome the anxiety I experienced leaving my bike chained to a rail yet otherwise unsupervised. My brain took me through a series of worst possible outcomes, and I could not prevent my suspicion of every criminal who gazed within 360 degrees of its direction. I wondered if this was what having children would be like?  Merrymaking curtailed by the apprehension of my own bicycle (and in spite of the superlock that was one-fifth the cost of the bike itself). This cyclette was turning out to be both a blessing and a curse, and a financial black hole. 

Our evening out came to a close. Just as I had managed to kick my arthritic hip over the frame of my bike, the flash of light and roar of thunder consumed the summer night. Without much warning, it began to pour. Everyone knows that you get more wet when you ride your bike, and we were at least thirty minutes away from home. 

So as fate would have it, I found myself back in square one, and back in this most insufferable situation:

The metro was just as smelly, hot, and crowded as I remembered it. The only difference was that now I was with my cyclette, and my boyfriend. 

I know what you're thinking- that I'm exaggerating the pain of this experience. In fact I do agree that the photo above seems to imply a relative ease of navigation. But I assure you that taking a bicycle on the metro is a very stressful experience. Mine is a country cruiser, not a titanium road bike, shit is HEAVY. And if you manage to make it down the stairs without the need for an ambulance and a neckbrace, congratulations, but you still have to negotiate it through the turnstyle, and that will bruise your ego at best. Then you have to be brave enough to withstand the stares of death from people who are jealous that you have such a gorgeous bike and they only have their legs angry that you are occupying three seats, two of which are completely vacant.

Now, just a small digression to say that one common feature of mine and Giulio's personality is our mutual hatred for people who push their way onto the metro before those who need to exit have a chance to get off. It's something not only so obviously inefficient for everyone, but also rude as fuck. (Sorry for the expletive, mom, but it really makes me rage.)

That balmy night on the metro with our cyclettes was no different. When we arrived at our destination and the sliding doors opened, we were faced by the usual herd of humans trying to push their way on. This episode was complicated by the fact that we were also responsible for a massive piece of machinery. I looked over at Giulio who was on the other side of the door, intolerantly pushing his way through the crowd and brilliantly using his bike as a sort of metropolitan tractor for the displacement of live humans. But just as I was admiring his always creative and tenacious spirit, I realized that this was about to go horribly wrong. Giulio was so consumed by his fight or flight instinct that he hadn't noticed that among the crowd he was trying to permeate was a group of middle-aged patrons with sunglasses and white sticks- a combination far too coincidental to rule out the possibility that they were all in fact, BLIND.  
It was war. I witnessed an unparalleled wrath as they angrily tried to push back against Giulio, wedging their sticks into the spokes of his tires much the same as cruel children do. Fortunately for Giulio's conscience, it was not until after he prevailed that he realized the barbaric nature of the situation, (and I assure you had they not been so aggressive, I wouldn't have thought it appropriate to laugh as much as I did). 

We managed to make it out of the metro and back home, but not totally without hiccup. My tires got stuck in the tracks of the tram (which I realize sounds funny, but is also a really good way to die). And now my extant fear of leaving the cyclette unattended in a world of blind gangsters has forced me to cache it on my balcony and off the streets, meanwhile I find myself serenely back to commuting via the lowbrow of the eyebrow. 

1 comment:

The Schumanator said...

Will you write my blog for me, too? It will be more interesting and fashionable if you do.