Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Day 35 Ticketless

At the last minute I decided to go with Shay and Barbara to Lecce. Shay had made arrangements to rent a car and we were going to pick it up.

But it's hard to be spontaneous in Italy. I didn’t have a bus ticket and since it was mid-afternoon, the store that sells them was sealed shut. Nevertheless, we trotted off to the bus stop, opposite Danilo's bar.

I stepped inside Danilo's and asked the barista whether the bus driver would allow me to get on without a ticket.  "Si, si," the barista assured me, "the driver will give you a ticket." Still, I realized that beautifully turned out young man behind the counter had probably not seen the inside of a bus for many years. 

My doggie friends Turbo and Laboro lay nearby in the warm sun and I gave them each a pat on the head before going back to the bus stop. I had the change ready in my hot little hand: 1.3 Euros.

The big bus arrived and the door opened with what sounds to me like a sigh. I went in and look pleadingly at the driver as I explained that I didn't get to the store in time to purchase a ticket and could I please just hand over the money?

"Non," he said, tiredly. I can imagine how many times a day he hears the plea. "We're not allowed to take money."

"What can I do?”

Shay and Barbara had tickets and they’d already put them in the little machine by the door to cancel them.

He shook his head. "You're supposed to have a ticket."

"Can you let me off at any of the next stops? Maybe one of them will be open?”

He gave in, shaking his head, muttering something about open stores.

Wouldn’t it make sense for the bus company to put ticket machines at bus stops – or even one machine in every small town – the way they have them to purchase tickets for street parking? I’m just saying…. 

Anyhow, the big bus pulls out. We make a couple of stops and, of course, all the stores are firmly shut. At the third stop a man wearing a pointy tuque gets on. Don't know why he was wearing it since it was quite warm but I heard him rip free a ticket before he stuck one into the slot.  He sat down near the front.

Aha, I thought, this guy has more than one ticket. I slid out of my seat and lurched over to him. I held out my hand with the 1.3 Euros and asked him whether he'd sell me a ticket. Close up he looked poor, a little grubby. But he smiled and gave me his ticket. I handed him the coins and he handed back 30 cents. His ticket cost 1 euro.

"Non, non," I say, "Please take it." But he's adamant.

One more reminder that class shows itself in spirit and action, not through words, fine clothes or important positions.  

I lurched to the front of the bus and showed the driver my ticket. He nodded and laughed. I stuck my ticket in the slot and went back to my seat. Everybody on the bus had a smile.

On the way to the bus stop

The bus stops on Via Roma in near the main square

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