Thursday, March 25, 2004

Yesterday evening arriving back from skiing (and what a lovely evening it was; fresh cold mountain air, beautiful snow, the slopes to ourselves and the twinkle of the city lights in the distance) I saw something I thought I’d never see in Italy: drunk Italians, and I do mean properly drunk. One of the guys had decided to climb a lamp post in the middle of the piazza and another was pissing up against my flat (despite leaving the osteria – which is next door – about ten seconds earlier). I don’t know if the two girls were similarly inebriated, but if not surely they would have gone home hours ago; it’s no fun been sober around drunk people.

I smiled, welcoming this refreshing change from Alpine sobriety. However that smile was ripped from my face when I watched them stumble across the road and climb straight into a car.

I’ve seen plenty of Italians leave bars and clubs and then drive – in fact, many of the discos can only be reached by car – but I’ve learnt that those drivers are normally sober. Indeed, the friends that I’ve been to these places with don’t generally drink anything at all, and certainly nothing more than a bottle of beer. But stories of those that do drink and drive are relatively common, and helps to explain the alarming frequency – about once a month – that I see the aftermath of a major crash.

Often when I write about cultural differences I wonder if I’m guilty of failing to understand or, worse, intolerance. But this time I have no such worries; drink-driving is irresponsible and stupid, and no apologist should try to defend it.

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