Seat Belt Usage in Italy, Part 2
In the early eighties some nebulous Italian entity got it into its head to impose seat belt laws.
Some of you may be familiar with the rules-are-made-to-be-broken mentality that permeates the Italian culture. You sophisticated ones will recognize that I am not just spreading slander about a whole population of people. I am merely addressing a well established phenomenon. I can't explain where it comes from. If you look at one Italian at a time, you find the whole range of people types, just like any other population. But for some reason, when you put them all together on a long skinny peninsula, you get mayhem. The Italians discuss this endlessly amongst themselves, and they can't explain it either.
At first, the seat belt laws were taken no more seriously than other laws. Another opporunity to break a rule sent the whole population into squeals of hilarity. But then something happened -- something so freakish it was almost creepy. The authorities had the audacity to actually enforce the seat belt laws.
Rumors spread wildly about people being pulled over and fined horrendous amounts of money for lack of a visible black band stretching diagonally across their bodies. More and more people had a story of their own to tell. It wasn't long before it had happened to someone you knew.
The people were outraged. The further south you went, the more outraged you found them. All over you could overhear animated conversations about how ridiculous it was. On people who drove an older car, namely everyone, it placed the enormous burden of having seatbelts newly installed. In Naples, they wouldn't hear of it.
Leave it to the Neapolitans to come up with a solution. A cottage industry sprang up there that produced knitted sweaters with a black diagonal band across the front. You could buy a sweater for each side of the car, the driver sweater with the band going one way, the passenger sweater with the band going the other.
You and I might wonder: "Wouldn't it be more hassle to put on a certain sweater every time you got in the car than to just put on the seat belt?" But you and I would be missing the point -- the micromanagement, keep-your-laws-off-my-body, don't-tell-me-what-to-do, POINT. So there.
I'm not sure how Italians today, almost thirty years later, feel about wearing seat belts. Perhaps they've come around; maybe they put them on automatically, without even thinking about it. Maybe an Italian will write in and let us know...
Meanwhile, think about whether you want to keep hearing about Italy in the seventies. I could cover:
Other uses of the Fiat 500.
The search for privacy in an overcrowded nation.
Lines used by Italian boys to lure girls to secluded areas.
On the other hand, if you're bored with all that, you could ridemyhandlebars back onto the MAX train for a peek at my longitudinal study on:
Heterosexual Mating Rituals on Public Transportation