Many of our friends deplore the number of scooters on the streets, and the abandon with which they are driven. To which we reply, Think how crowded our already crowded streets and parking areas would be if every one of those scooters was a single-occupant car. It would be day-long gridlock – a nightmare.
Having said that, there are some scooter drivers who give the rest of us a bad name by being reckless and thoughtless. And there are scooter practices which car-drivers find annoying; for instance, all scooters will move to the front of any line of cars, and will pass any slow-moving column of cars. Personally I think irritation at this practice is just envy on car-drivers’ part! I was stranded in a long line in down-town Rapallo a while back; here’s a photo of a few of the scooters who made their way past me and up to the front of the line:
We’ve been making a years-long study of the various driving styles of the Italian Scooter Drivers, and herewith we present our findings.
First of all there are the Wild Young Men who ride with their helmets on the back of their heads, sometimes unfastened (though this is illegal so you don’t see it so often), and always, always, their elbows bent out. What is it about leaning forward and sticking your elbows out that makes you go faster? I don’t know, but they all do it, so it must work. You know if you see someone coming at you on a scooter with arms akimbo that you’d better watch out, because he won’t be. And yes, it’s always ‘he.’
The counterpoint to the young boys is the Straight Young Girls. They seem always to be reed-slim, and they sit absolutely erect, with their knees and elbows tucked demurely in. They don’t necessarily drive more slowly than the boys, but they make a neater package. I have to say here that I had a hard time getting the photos to illustrate these styles – the scooters go by quickly, so many of my attempts were blurred failures. The example of this riding style is a woman a little older than the teens of whom I’m speaking, but she has not lost her youthful Style.
Then there are the Young Bucks out cruising. They’ve learned to keep their elbows in, but haven’t yet learned to watch the road all the time. There are more important things to look at!
Time passes, young men age, and through some bizarre rule of body physics the elbows go in and the knees go out. I was able to capture a rare elbows AND knees out gent. This is uncommon; usually the Old Guys simply put their knees at right angles to the scooter and hold their arms in.
Smoking levels are down in Italy, but many people of both genders enjoy smoking as they scoot along. The Captain has noted that most smokers like to light up immediately after putting on their helmets but before they’ve started the motor. (Only yesterday I watched a man put on his helmet, then pull out his papers and tobacco and proceed to roll a big fat cigarette before setting out; that was a first for me.) The Captain wants to invent a ‘sigaretta finta’ (fake cigarette) for those trying to quit – something they could keep in the scooter and put a match to when they set off, and then clench between their teeth as they drive. He thinks it’s an idea with real financial potential; I think we should keep our day jobs. I was unable to capture the not unusual sight of someone driving, smoking AND talking on the cell phone all at the same time. It’s a rather terrifying sight.
Before showing you the last two photos, which are of everyone’s favorite scooter style, I want to mention three important styles I was not able to document with pictures. The first is highly illegal, but still often seen. It is the Entire Family of Four on One Scooter. Dad drives; Mom sits pillion; between them, smooshed to near invisibility, is the smaller of two children. Standing between Dad’s legs and arms, between him and the steering handles, is the larger of the two children. Phew!
The Chat is an amusing illustration of the Italian national past-time of sharing information. It’s not unusual to see two scooters zooming along side-by-side as the drivers engage in animated conversation involving, of course, lots of hand language.
You go years without seeing something and then, boom, three times in one week: last week I saw the ever-rarer Side Saddle Passenger, not once, but three times. This style gives me the jim-jams because having tried it once or twice myself I know how completely unstable the side-sitting passenger feels. And if you’re wearing a slippery skirt it’s just a short slide from the scooter seat to the pavement. Ick. Give me my jeans and let me straddle that seat, please. This riding style is favored by older couples, the woman in her sweater and matching A-line skirt, which is too tight to allow her to ride modestly in any other way.
Everybody’s favorite motor-scooter sight has to be the Dog on the Floorboard. We frequently see the older men up here on the mountain transporting their hunting dogs to the woods for a good run. These dogs seem all to be liver-spotted spaniels, and they are excellent passengers.
The other day I rode behind a scooter which had an unwilling lab as passenger. It was hilarious; the dog was all over the place and howling at the top of its lungs. It’s owner was driving very cautiously, but it was still all too much for the dog who sounded more like an air-raid siren than a dog. Perhaps they had come from the vet; or perhaps it was a training exercise. In any event, it had Fail written all over it.
Of course, the smaller your dog, the easier it will be to carry it on your scooter:
If you don’t trust your pooch to balance on the floor, and he’s small enough, you can always tuck him into a basket:
Have I left anything or anyone out? Let me know if I’ve missed any Moto-Riding styles and I’ll update the catalog.