Thursday, January 12, 2006

The mean streets of Rome

It's election season in Italy, time for Berlusconi's boys to trot out statistics about how much they have improved the old boot in the last 4.5 years. Today, we learn that crime rates are down dramatically across much of Italy. Here in Rome, the rate of predatory crimes -- consisting of the big 3: muggings, robbery and theft -- is down 6 percent year-on-year between 2004 and 2005.

If only, I say.

This weekend, I was the victim of a nasty street crime. Cristina and I were walking home after a dinner party with friends. It was almost 3 a.m. We were steps from our door, minding our business, discussing the virtues of Sardinian cuisine, when an unsettling cry pierced the air. I looked to my right and saw a gang of neighborhood punks. They were on their motor scooters, doubled up. The passenger on the bike nearest me raised his arm. Commands were shouted, engines revved, assassins-in-down-jackets went into action. We were under attack!

All at once, a barrage of objects came hurtling at us. I reached to push Cristina out of the oncoming maelstrom, but it was too late. Luckily (and wisely), she was unharmed. (She cuts a pretty intimidating stride after a Sardinian meal. They were wise not to mess with her). I was not so fortunate. The objects - eggs! -- were not a direct hit. It was worse. The projectiles caromed off the wall of our apartment building at a deadly angle, unleashing maximum spray. I was asoak in yolk.

"Cristina," I yelled out in an echoey, adrenaline-filled I've-been-hit-fend-for-yourself-moment, "We've been egged!"

Cristina, unscathed, flashed me a horrified look. "Egged!?! Siamo ouvati!?! You can use 'egg' as a verb?"

Egg shells freezing to my jacket, yolk and egg white streaming down my side, I tried to regain my composure and explain why, yes, sometimes the English language is indulgent enough to allow nouns to act as perfectly acceptable verbs. "Look at Google", I pointed out.

She wasn't buying it. To Cristina, a heinous crime had been committed. A crime of linguistics. The neighborhood toughs screamed into the night, no doubt terrorizing other unsuspecting pedestrians. God help us all.

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