In hind sight, this was a really stupid thing to do, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. You see, I went to chuch this past Sunday at St. Paul's within the Walls, in Rome.
I got up early Sunday morning, along with my roomates, one of my suit mates, and another friend of ours. They were all going to Saint Sebastians, or Saint John Lateren or some such, I was going to St. Paul's as it is one of two Anglican churches in the area. Jeanne was going to go with me, but she decided to sleep in.
So at 8:30 in the morning, Anna, Bridget, Lauren, Erin, and I are all standing out at the bus stop trying our hardest not to look like Americans. There are also two Italians there, ignoring each other and us. Naturally the 8:40 bus comes late, and when it does it is litterally packed to the gills. The Italians cram their way on, we decide to wait for the next bus, which arrives about the same time as the first one finnaly left the intersection. This bus is slightly less crowded, and we shove our way on board. The driver didn't open the front doors, so we had no way of getting up to the front of the bus to validate out tickets. Oh well.
We were packed on pretty well to begin with, but the bus stopped three more times on the way into the city and more people shoved their way on. I spend the thirty minute ride to the city standing in the isle, pressed up against three of my friends, and four locals that I did not know from Adam. Even when crammed in like this, you still have to hold on to something on the bus, otherwise the first time a corner is rounded you start off a domino effect that results in the people on the ends going flying out the windshield. I grabbed the overhead bar and hung on for dear life, trying to convince myself that the cold feeling in my wrist was just air from the open window and not blood loss.
We got into Anagnia without any injuries from being crushed by the crowd or passing out from lack of oxygen, and onto our train. The great thing about Anagnia is that it is the end of the line, so while there are a multitude of buses, all runing behind schedual in different directions, there is only one train going one way, so one would really have to work hard to mess up getting on the metro there.
We lucked out, and the train we were on was one of the shiny new ones that havn't been vandalized yet. All five of us got seats, because it was Sunday morning and there are never enough people waiting at Anagnia to fill a train, the realy push comes at rush hour, but that's another story.
So the others got off at San Giovani to go do their thing, leaving me to ride four stops further down the line to Repubblica. Those three stops were delightfully incedent three, and I got off at my stop, hoping that Jeanne's mumbled, sleep induced directions were good. They were, I guess God looks after fools and travelers.
One leaves Repubblica station in the Piazza Nationalie, one of the nicer parts of town. Then, just looking down a main street, you can see the Wedding Cake* at the other end of the street. Saint Paul's was only about two blocks down the street from the Piazza. It is a pretty little church built sometime in the 19th century, which means by Roman standards it's brand new. A set of ornamental bronze doors on the street side are accompanied by a legend that says they were built to celebrate the meeting of Pope John Paul II with the Archbishop of Cantabury. I'm not sure when exactly the doors were commissioned then, except the current ABC is named Rowen, and his immidiate predicessor was named George, and the ABC listed in this enscription was not either one of those. The doors are suffering from Late-70s-Early-80s-Post-Modernism-itis, so that combined with the ABCs name makes me think that the doors are older thean me, but not by much, easily the most recent anything I've seen in this city.
The interior of the church is home to some absolutly glorious mosaics and stained glass -- the next time I go I'm bringing my camera and a little money for postcards of the place. The church itself is part of the Episcopal Diocese of the Meditaranian, and the congragation was a real cross section of the Church. The priest is Latin-American by way of New York City, the acolites are all from somewhere in West Africa, the readers are either from England or one of its former colonial possessions, the chior director is Italian, one of the basses is German, and the LEMs were Americans. Everyone was very welcoming, and keen to know what I was studing, how long I would be in Rome, and if I was planing to come back. All in all a nice morning, its nice to know that no matter where I go, I'll be able to find the Book of Common Prayer and the Hymnal 1982 waiting for me in a pew.
In Rome, the 8th sacrament includes tea and orange juice in addition to coffee, and some sort of hard sugar cookies instead of doughnuts. I said hello to people, got my coffee and went on my way. The trip back to campus was equally uneventful. Once again I was on one of the shiny new trains, although I found myself forced to retract my earlier thoughts on the lack of graffitti in the new trains. Someone had scratched the word "GROELS" on one of the windows in six inch high letters (in the metric system thats something like 2.4 kiloliters). I have no idea what it means, but it probably isn't an Italian word given that the language does not have either of those consonent pairs nor that dipthong.
I didn't get a seat initially, despite the fact that I was at the leading, and least crowded, end of the train** but a young couple trying to navigate luggage that weighed as much as they did got off at Termini, the stop after I got on and I was able to snag a seat next to a woman in a violently pink coat that no American woman over the age of 13 would have been caught dead in. I spent most of the rest of the ride pondering the meaning of groels, watching the elderly gentelman sitting across from me read his newspaper, and ignoring the gypsy playing the accordian. He murdered the song from Barber of Seville*** somewhere between when we didn't stop at Manzoni and when we did stop at San Giovanni. After that he started wandering around the train playing, and I didn't have to put up with him for the rest of the trip, or the kid with him. The kid was holding the collection cup, and holding on to the older gypsy's jacket like a champ, but his sad puppy dog look could have used work. Right now the best one I've ever scean was from my grandfather, 88 years old at the time, when he was told that he was not allowed to have any pie.
At Cinecinta the mystery of when, where, and how the train drivers switch was solved. We were stoped at the station, when a man wearing the navy blue with the silver reflecive stripes identifing him as working for the metro system got on and opened the door to the driver's little cabin. The new guy sat down and had a short conversation with the driver, out of which I recognized the words "Allora" and "Ciao", than the old guy left the train and we continued like nothing was different. The new guy's voice on the PA was indistinguishable from his predecessor's. Of course that does bring up another question: WHY CINECINTA? Anagnia, the next stop, is the end of the line. Wouldn't it make more sense to switch drivers there?
So I left the station, and low and behold, my bus was waiting for me. Not only that, I got to set down. If you're quick and ride for long enough, one can usually snag a seat on the Metro, sometimes even during rush hour, but I havn't sat on the bus back to campus since the first day when the school took us on a walking tour. The secret is evedently to ride at 1300 on a Sunday. I've also been told that there are four buses leaving the station in the 1600 hour on weekdays and that it ought to be pretty easy to get a seat on one of those, but that does not stack with my actuall experiance. I've tried the 1600 bus on Friday before, and always manage to find myself being standing passanger number 30 on a bus that allegedly carries 55 people seated, 14 people standing, and one driver for a total of 70 on board.
When the bus finally made it to Frattocchie, I pushed the stop requst button, to descover that it wasn't actually working, so I went forward and muttered something to the bus driver that included the words "Scusi" "fermata" "prossima" and "prenotazione". The grammer was horrible, but the driver, who looked like Richard Gere, seemed to understand and nodded at me. Whatever he though I said, he let me off at the right stop, and I made it back to campus in time to remember that the Mensa only serves brunch and dinner on Sundays, and that I should have grabbed a pannini at the station in Anagnia.
*It's this big white thing Moussolini built. It's a nice building I guess, but he decided to plop it down on the side of the Capitoline Hill, and it just looks out of place with it's surroundings, namely the Campidoglio, the Forum, and the Colosseum. It also looks rather like he told the archetecht 'make me a building that looks like the bastard child of a cake and a greek temple'.
**although with the new ones it doesn't matter so much, since they are open from one end to the other, and one can just walk from compartment to compartment
***you know the one, Bugs Bunney taught it to us all