Monday, January 8, 2018

Rome Journal: Ladri di Bagagli

scene from Vittorio de Sica's Bicycle Thieves (Ligabo)
“Once you die you can no longer lose your suitcase” is not a famous Roman expression, but Ladri di biciclette is the name of the De Sica classic and arriving at Fiumicino might be called Ladri di bagagli. On a recent Saturday morning a bevy of Chinese tourists at least thirty strong had commandeered Alitalia’s lost baggage area at Gate A down from carousels loaded with bags from Dubai, London and New York. Their luggage carts runneth over, but apparently there were still items missing. On line along with the Chinese were an American whose Italian wife had lost her bag, a couple with a baby who turned out to be UN workers and a young student off to study in Perugia. All had their stories and their responses which ranged from equanimity to rage. There were even moments of kindness amongst the suffering when for instance one couple gave their space up for the sake of the couple traveling with the baby. Americans tend to suffer from Italy envy. The way of life led by their counterparts appears more romantic, exotic and freewheeling. However, there's a side to Italy that’s right out of Kafka. The line of people reporting lost baggage was long due to all the bureaucratic red tape and all the forms that needed to be filled out. Claims agents in green uniforms who looked like stewardesses manned the counters and also were interspersed throughout the baggage claim area. They were both beacons of hope (in that they encouraged you to keep waiting) and also confirmed the bad news when the sign atop a particular carousel changed from “in corso” to “completo.”

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