Wednesday, March 19, 2014

How Roman unions ruined my morning

Well, this post was going to be about having holy Mass at the Basilica of Saint Paul's. But that didn't happen today, and I don't know when it will happen. Here's my story.

I headed out to catch a bus around 10 am; the bus would take me to the metro station, and the metro would -- with a transfer a Linea B -- to Saint Paul's. Arriving at Stazione Termini a few minutes later, I got off the one train, and walked up a staircase to get a train on Linea B.

Except there is no Linea B oggi (today) -- the gates are closed, and locked.

What's going on? This  is where not speaking the language really hurts. There are signs, and messages on the video terminals, but all in Italian. Who knows what announcement might have been made that I tuned out? I walk around, hoping to figure something out. After a few minutes thought, I realize: if it were a short delay, the gates wouldn't have been closed and locked. Whatever the problem is, it's not going to be fixed right away.

So, I start hunting for an alternative way to get to Saint Paul's. I pored over a map on the wall, listing bus routes, but there wasn't one direct. It looked like there might be an interurban train, but when I looked for a place to buy a ticket, I couldn't find it. The "auto ticket" machine didn't work for me (not the first time).

Now I'm outside the station, where there are a bunch of bus stops organized on various "islands." Thankfully, each bus line has a sign listing it's stops; so I'm checking each of them, only to confirm my earlier conclusion: no direct bus connection to San Paolo.

So now I head to the information booth. Happily, the woman behind the counter speaks English, and she is able to give me a couple of buses -- necessitating a transfer -- that will get me there. She even writes it out on a piece of paper. Very helpful!

And, while I'm waiting, I hear her explain to another stranded traveler, why Linea B isn't running:

A strike.

Well, I walk over to the island for the 75 bus. I scan the sign; it doesn't list "Piramide," which is the stop where I am to transfer to the 23. I look around at the other ones; none of them list Piramide. But, I figure I can ask the driver.

After waiting a few minutes, I remember my goal was to get there before Noon. I don't know for sure, but based on (limited) experience, I'd found that the sacristans tend to be away from Noon to about 3 or 4. So if I didn't make it by Noon, I was in no hurry. Since I didn't know of anything else near Saint Paul's that was worth seeing, I thought about whether I needed to jump right on this bus.

I looked up, and saw a brilliant gold statue, atop a building, that I'd noticed the other day, with the intention to check it out; so maybe today was that day? It was only a few blocks away; I could check it out, maybe get some lunch, and then head down to Saint Paul's.

The church, it turns out, is Sacro Cuore. And, it was closed. OK...

So I walked around a bit, didn't much like what I saw. I hadn't strayed very far from the train station; and, in fact, I was still on the same bus line. OK, I thought; I'll go see what the Piramide looks like (here's a Wikipedia article). So I sort of sat on the ledge of the wall, near the bus stop (I've noticed bus stops in Rome are conspicuously lacking benches), to wait for the 75.

After an hour, I gave up. If the bus runs less than once every hour, do I really want to rely on it to get me back here? And of course, that lovely word came back to mind: "strike."

So I walked back to Termini, and took the subway line that was working back here.

Now, will it surprise you that, in all that waiting and frustration, I thought about unions and how much power they ought to have? Do you suppose I thought a little about how I'd like to see the public authorities handle these situations?

Perhaps some of my readers are advocates of unionism; perhaps you know (and overlook) that I am more critical. And perhaps, dear reader, this helps you appreciate why many people do not think well of unions and the political power they wield.

Should a union be able to shut down a public accommodation in this way?

It may be a one-day thing, so we may be back in business tomorrow. We'll see.

Feel free to offer your own thoughts in the comments.

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