Monday, January 28, 2013
Those Marvelous Vaporetto Marinai
After two years of living here I still marvel at the infinite patience regularly exhibited by the crews on the vaporetti. I don't know how they manage it, but I've yet to see one of them lose his or her patience with even the most clueless of tourists or the most temperamental of locals.
They say that the sea shore is rich in positive ions--whatever those are--which make one feel good just to be near it. Is the surface of the lagoon also rich in positive ions, and are these what give i marinai their poise?
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that they are called marinai--or sailors--which lends their job a certain romance usually lacking in other employment involving a fixed route.
Sandro has idealized them ever since we arrived here, and still renders our living room entirely unpassable as he ropes one dining room chair to another, the handle of a cabinet to a distant door knob, the leg of our couch to an arm chair, in imitation of the marinai tying up their vaporetto at each stop.
Perhaps I'm so struck by their manners because I moved here from New York City, where people who work in the public transportation sector, in the subways and buses, are generally the least helpful people you'll meet in the city. In fact, contrary to an old cliché, most New Yorkers are only too happy to respond to a stranger's request for directions. Unless you happen to be asking a New York City bus driver about his own route, in which case your chances of getting too far greatly decrease.
But the other day, i marinai exceeded even their own remarkable standards of helpfulness. I was running for a vaporetto in Sant' Elena and had gotten no closer than perhaps 100 yards from the pontile or dock when the boat began to pull away. It was the 4.1 line, and it was departing from the right of the two pontili that make up the Sant' Elena stop, heading in the direction of Lido. I stopped running and resigned myself to catching the next one, when I noticed that the departing vaporetto suddenly slowed and started to drift toward the pontile just ahead of it, the pontile from which one catches a vaporetto to Piazza San Marco.
Perhaps something's gone wrong with the engine, I thought, as a vaporetto running the 4.1 route would never pull into that particular pontile. I began to walk faster just to see what was going on with the vaporetto, then arrived at the pontile to find that, in fact, the driver had pulled the vaporetto up, the crewman had slid open the door, and they were waiting for--me. Only for me. I looked around. I was the only one there.
I didn't even think they'd seen me running, as I wasn't running along the waterside, but straight toward the stop, out of the depths of the park.
So, as carnevale now begins and the tourists--after oh-so-short a hiatus following New Year's Eve--return in vast bovine masses, packing the vaporetti with long-term camping rucksacks on their backs and huge bags left lying heavily everywhere they aren't supposed to be, it seems a good time to salute those folks who help make Venice's public transportation system the most pleasant I've ever depended upon.