Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Six ragazzi with no train tickets
Wednesday, March 7
We observe the unpredictability of life in Italy again on the train today. Boarding in San Salvatore for a 20-minute ride to Lucca, we see six Italian ragazzi who look to be in their late teens or early 20s board the train in Altopascio, the stop after ours. They are talking, smiling, joking among themselves, and by the expression on their faces, I suspect they may not have tickets. Ah, here comes the controllore, who obviously suspects the same, and he is correct. They have no tickets.
They are standing in the passageway between two cars, and we are too far away to know exactly what is being said, but we do hear niente biglietti and uscite a Porcari, no tickets and get off at the next stop, Porcari. The young men are still smiling and continue talking with the controllore for a good five minutes, and I get the idea that they have no intention of exiting until they reach their intended destination of Lucca. Sure enough, Porcari comes and goes, and they are still aboard, still talking in a careless and friendly way with the controllore, whose once stern face is turning progressively friendly. He has not asked for their identity cards, and now he says “Ciao” and walks away, leaving us confused about what has happened.
The train pulls into Lucca, and I watch the young men and the controllore to see if anything more will happen, but they get off and go one direction and he goes another way. What can we conclude from this encounter, along with a similar incident we observed last month? It seems that the train conductors don’t really want to prolong these disagreements, but we have no idea why. The controllore last month threatened to call the police to meet the argumentative passenger at the next station, but the passenger called his bluff and nothing happened. Do the conductors lack backup support? Is it bad form to call for help? Is it too much trouble to fill out the paperwork? Did these ragazzi charm or somehow intimidate the conductor? I will probably never know.
Later I chance to see the same ragazzi as they are getting ready to board a train back to Altopascio, and I talk to them for a minute to try to discern what happened earlier. They confirm that they didn’t have tickets and that nothing happened to them, but as I try to find out what they said to the conductor, their train pulls in and they bid me good-bye. I suppose that to conclude that Italian law enforcement is inconsistent is simply to restate what I have heard from many sources, but now I have my own experiences to verify this.