I returned to Bari after many months with a great and secret joy that prompted me to observe everything with renewed amazement, starting with the panorama dressed up for a festive sun dispenser of sweet arrogance, up to the monuments, “my” Piccini Theater and the family streets, the old town, the houses and the shops. The course. The sea.
It doesn’t matter that the traffic is chaotic: I’m back and I just need to sigh a little and try to tinker in not too busy roads in search of rest. In vain. I dodge a scooter that runs in contradiction, on the pavement, forked by two young men. Without mask. They disappear in another forbidden sense.
But, here’s the event. He drives the Vespa. I apologize for using the famous name of the great scooter that powered Italy together with the very nice Lambretta, in place of the appropriate name for this powerful and aggressive modern monster: it is that I am unable to escape tradition and habit. And I don’t know the real name. So, with a regulated mask, he drives the Vespa or whatever it is, practically with his stomach. But, in fact, he drives it with difficulty because between the belly and the handlebars there is a child’s head. Of course there is also the child’s body, but you can’t see it because he, the child, is standing on the pedal. A woman with a lopsided mask sits on the rear seat in an Amazonian posture, carrying another child in one arm and a melon in the other. The child squirms, the melon does not, it stands still and yellow blissfully in the city traffic. The only one with a helmet is the child in the woman’s arms, a strange helmet, all colored with English writing. The scooter proceeds swiftly and zigzagging along the street clogged with cars parked in double and triple rows, the street of Bari, a busy Italian city.
He, the one who seems to be the father of the family, recognizes me, slows down and with a high, stamped voice, lifting the mask, says to his wife to make me hear: “Auànd a cud che v ‘piac a tea and mamt, cud d’ la television ”(translate?) and stops. I discover with little pride that I have met an infinitesimal molecule of the “share” of Elisir. The family unit staggers, the melon wobbles, the child loses his helmet. I pick it up, smile to say hello and hand it to the lady who smiles back at me. I would like to point out that it can be dangerous to travel like that, in four on a single motor scooter, plus the melon. He, the father of the family admits, agrees, agrees, but then objects: “I have to go to my mother-in-law”. In Italian. He accelerates to underline what he is about to say and adds, always in the language, but shaking his head and letting out a bitter resignation, “And, then, we’re in Italy”. Perfect. It is a sociology essay. Let’s start with the debut: “The one you and your mother like when she works on television”. He, no, he doesn’t like me, he tolerates, he doesn’t understand, but he tolerates.
Then he explains how in a comedy of the theater of the absurd, which is going to the mother-in-law, indeed, he makes it clear that he brings the family and the melon to the mother-in-law. There is no connection between violations, about ten, of the highway code and a visit to the mother-in-law, but he sees it, the connection, indeed it imposes it. Maybe there is, but I’m still learning.
It must be perverse and amoral familism, the cross of our society. The centaur considers the family corvée a mitigating factor, indeed a motive for violating laws and traffic regulations. The final sentence is missing, “in cauda venenum”.
But it arrives and it is sublime: “And, then, we are in Italy”. The tone is regretful, that of a Silvio Pellico without melancholy frowns, but bitterly resigned. I’m not mentioning Manzoni whom I looted last week. But it occurred to me: the logical procedure is a masterpiece of sophistication: it is not a free geopolitical postponement, it is not a simple justification of illegal behavior by invoking a historical context as the cause of a desperate spirit of adaptation that pushes to violate the law.
It is much more: it is the overturning of cause and effect, that is: Italy is what it is because you go around on the bike with the family, the melon and without a helmet for everyone, sure of impunity and it is not true that you are forced by a lazy, unjust Italy, without laws, without judges, without civic sense, without police, to go around the city like a fool. Because there are laws, judges and police, but they are those of a country that insists on considering itself civil and evolved and, therefore, citizens and melons should not be controlled one by one, forcing them to behave not felt as necessary and not needy of carabinieri in every corner of the city. And, as long as it comes to such picturesque infringements of the highway code, I could smile wistfully at it and wait the centuries it takes to see things changed for the better, but since it is a sign of a broader conception of life, of politics, of the country, of coexistence, there is something to worry about.
The moralistic apologue in which I am transforming the grotesque watercolor of metropolitan life risks ruining my day, I think as I see the powerful (and expensive) trabiccolo moving away in a cloud of exhaust gases and I am about to decide to give a damn and opt for the ‘indulgence. After all, I tell myself, the picturesque character is even likeable. But then, looking closely, I discover that he is driving with one hand: with the other he holds the mobile phone. And speaks. It is too much, even if we are in Italy: a blur, a slight skid and the melon falls ruinously shattering on the asphalt in a yellow flash. I see the makeshift sociologist saving his cell phone and a son and fidgeting as he rails: he must be angry with his mother-in-law. On his mouth I read the word “mam’t” very well. “Your mother.”. The mother-in-law. A vocative that hides a weary resignation, like an ejaculation of a single vernacular word. The wife hugs the other child, the one with the helmet.
Then he adds, greeting the remains of the “Cucumis melo” with a kick: “The next volt u ‘cask ngiùa mett au melon”.