Cell phones, compliance & conflict in Italy

12 Jan

It’s been a while friends since I wrote here. But an event last night while landing at Rome’s Fiumicino airport gave me lots to ponder.

First, I fly far more than the average person.  In the last 6 months alone I’ve flown in and out of the following airports (some multiple times):

  • Rome
  • Copenhagen
  • Gothenburg
  • Almaty (Kazakhstan)
  • Istanbul
  • Lyon (which gets my vote as the most beautifully named airport – Saint Exupéry Aéroport)
  • Paris
  • Prague
  • Cannes
  • Berlin
  • Moscow
  • Kiev
  • Boston
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • San Francisco
  • Amsterdam
  • Tucson
  • Seattle
  • Munich

I know a thing or 2 about airplane safety and processes, OK?  And I am pretty good about following them.

Imagine my surprise last night when, after landing in Rome and taxing for 5 minutes (well on the way to the gate), I switched on my cell phone and promptly received a call from Alessandro.  I was astonished to the hear the elegant signore — from across the plane bellowing at me, “YOU are NOT allowed to use your mobile on the plane!” I looked at him, shocked by this fantastically outraged accusation.  “We have landed and we are taxiing,” I explained; getting back to my brief conversation.  He was apoplectic, insistent and stood up in his seat to call the flight attendant (a move much more dangerous in my opinion than using the mobile 5 minutes after landing), and continued to bellow at me until, incensed, I hung up the phone and fumed.

First, the practical side:

I concede that I may be speaking from a singularly personal perspective, but in my experience Italians are remarkably cavalier about following most rules (apart from the rigid dictates of cuisine and fashion).  And “cavalier” is the perfect word to use here – in Italian, a “cavaliere” is a knight, and there is a sense of bold nobility in the way that Italians disregard the foolish rules like speed limits, queues and taxation laws.  So that an Italian would so passionately enforce an outdated rule (what was going to happen on the runway, would we crash into our gate?) to the point that he was ready to make a citizen’s arrest, was perplexing to me.

BTW which country is the most fastidioso about airline safety and perhaps safety in general?  I think we can all agree that it is the USA.  And as soon as your plane wheels touch ground, the flight attendants announce that it’s fine to turn on & use your cell phone. And in fact this is the quote from the FAA website:

“FAA guidance does let airlines allow cell phone calls once the plane has landed and is taxiing to the gate.”

Honestly, if electronics were that dangerous to a plane’s operation they would be collected and confiscated at the gate.

Now, the spiritual side:

Goodness, I realized that I extremely attached to being “right” on this issue.  As someone with a commitment to healing, energetic balance and peace, boy was I ever triggered by this.  Have you every received a full-on righteous Italian scolding?  It’s a humiliating experience that is guaranteed to get your blood boiling.  I thought of all the cleverly insulting things I could say to put this blustering bully in his place. And then fumed again that I didn’t have the guts or the wit at the time.

Really, is this me?

No, it’s not.  Why should it matter that complete stranger chooses to voice his (misguided) opinion of my behavior in front a group of complete strangers whom I’ll never see again?  I can look at his behavior as a reaction to frustrations and disappointment in his own life.  It has nothing to do with me. And yet if I were to reflect his behavior back at him in the same way would perpetuate a cycle of  brutta behavior.  One of the things I have learned to deeply appreciate  a society where people are sensitive to each other’s feelings.  And to treat people in a gentle way has a virtuous circle effect.  It’s not always easy in Rome, but I promise to commit to making each encounter in every day a little more peaceful.  Even at the post office.


6 Responses to “Cell phones, compliance & conflict in Italy”

  1. Nathalie (@spacedlaw) January 12, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

    As if Italians were not normally the first ones to switch back their beloved telefonino on! The mind boggles.

    • A Life in Rome... January 12, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

      Lol! I wonder if all the fellow passengers were shocked at his, not my behavior….

  2. Antonio January 14, 2013 at 11:59 am #

    You really should write more often. That Signore probably flew two or three times in his whole life and was scared to death before taking of. So, when the plane landed he must had experienced some sort of relief… until your phone rang! By the way, there was no valid excuse for being rude. The world is not collapsing yet, he should know that.

    • A Life in Rome... January 14, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

      Thanks for such a nice comment, Antonio! Writing more often I’ve decided is one of my 2013 resolutions. 🙂

  3. Galima N August 13, 2013 at 9:44 pm #

    I really liked your blog – keep up the good work! I had a very ugly experience during my 4-day stay in Rome last month. I was such an italophile before I went there. But I found most people rude which is kind of a disappointment. Or maybe I expected everybody to be like Roberto Benigni. I got shouted at by a female museum guard when I hadn’t done anything wrong. My only fault wsd that I didn’t speak the language. I complained to the museum but they just ignored me. Is that what usually happens?

    • A Life in Rome... August 15, 2013 at 11:14 am #

      I’m so sorry for your experience, there are so many wonderful people and experiences in Rome, but for some reason Romans really like to scold and to be on the receiving end of that (unjustly) is so unpleasant.

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