The coach from Ciampino to Roma Termini was full to overflowing. I had taken a seat behind the driver, and the final passenger to board sat next to me – a lugubrious Italian —with a face not dissimilar to that Walter Matthau, only longer. Whilst checking that all the seats were taken, a Terra-man, was suddenly confronted with another passenger determined to board. The clearly true observation that there were no seats was responded to with a plea that he had to go to Hospital urgently(!) accompanied by a melodramatic slump against the dashboard. This had the unfortunate effect of first, switching on the radio and then increasing the volume until it reached an ear-bleeding level. The Terra man ran off to find help but fortunately Walther was able to switch the radio before it perforated every eardrum within a seven Kilometre radius. Exit superfluous passenger clutching head; enter driver. He’s not happy. From a brief exchange with another Terra-person, I gathered that there was something that needed sorting out. As a result, we left the coach stop at a velocity approaching Mach 2, and entered the dual carriageway with a ‘taking no prisoners’ attitude. This was not the ideal time to begin what was clearly going to be a confrontational discussion. One of my fellow passengers inmates was clearly not used to road travel in Italy so that when the Mr Angry’s conversation was underlined by furious gestures with what should in theory have been the hand guiding the bus and its passengers to a safe arrival, she began to ‘yelp’. Mr Angry’s conversation was one of those where he had to admit to being in the wrong, though not really wishing to do so thus resulting in an apology wrapped in such aggressive tones that it was, in effect, closer to a threat. However even this small concession to taking responsibility was sufficient to turn him against the whole world.
It was at this point that Walter who had been ‘juggling’ his two Blackberry phones, moved his legs to a position which annoyed Mr Even More Angry, who asked Walter to move his legs – in polite words, though with a subtext worthy of The Incredible Hulk. Walter asked what was the problem – which prefaced a conversation along the lines of : ‘Why is that a nuisance?’ – ‘It is’ – ‘They are nowhere near you’ etc finally ending with an exchange which went ‘End of conversation’ – ‘The discussion is over’ – ‘Nothing more to say’ Unfortunately this ridiculous verbal tennis was not the end of the matter. Mr Extremely Angry was now driving like something out of a Nicholas Cage film, Walther was muttering under his breath to me, whilst at the same time, Miss Yelp’s cries were getting louder and more frequent. The chaos increased as Mr Furious repeatedly slid his seat back as far as possible, presumably hoping to amputate one of Walter’s legs or at least inflict a painful flesh wound. The coach stopped at a set of traffic lights. Hulk says to Walter – ‘Maybe I didn’t make myself clear!’ They both rose to their feet- hurling abuse at each other- neither taking any notice of the torrent of expletives coming their way. Finally Hulk opens the door and Walter exits. (which I think might have been what he was actually aiming for) and descends to the pavement whilst continuing the telephone conversation on Blackberry 2, uninterrupted by the confrontation. Mrs Yelp is now shocked into silence, until, that is, Hulk resumes his position and we rocket off towards Termini, and the yelping begins again. I wonder at the possibility of Hulk pursuing Walter across the pavement and mowing him down. Fortunately Hulk, becoming a slightly paler green, doesn’t take this route, and we arrive at Termini to the sound of his muttering, and a whimpering blonde lady who when we slide to a halt says to her companion: ‘I need a drink’- La dolce vita!