Friday, April 25, 2008

Cultural Attitudes toward safety equipment in Italy

My friend Carla was visiting a few years ago. She stayed at my apartment and used Portland for a base to travel out from, usually by herself, which was gutsy of her since she doesn't speak a word of English. For a few days she went up to Seattle and took the obligatory ferry ride. While waiting for departure, she stood on the deck watching the scene on the dock. She saw a hefty woman ferry worker standing there, holding a line, getting ready to push off. When she got back to Portland, Carla made a great show of itemizing the safety equipment that bedecked this ferry worker: Hardhat! Life vest! Flashlight! Whistle! Construction boots! Radio! etc. "If this were Italy," said Carla, "if the passengers on an Italian ferry saw someone that prepared for disaster, they would stampede off that boat so fast!"

To the Italian way of thinking, what could it mean but that the dock workers knew something they weren't telling?

I often think of the Italians as I'm layering on my gear, and I can hear them laughing from across the big water. For more about Italians on safety, I could tell you about Elvio.

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