Anyone who’s ever been to Rome and contemplated crossing the street is familiar with the question; "Will I make it?" This is a legitimate question! We had to cross 5 lanes of traffic headed towards the stadium and 5 lanes of traffic headed away from the stadium. The 10 lanes were full. The cars were densely packed, and moving briskly, for as far as my eye could see. Would we ever cross, I wondered? Then I did what everyone else did. I followed the guy who just said the equivalent of "fit" and shot out across the street. Amazingly, like Moses, he split the great sea of Fiats and Alfa Romeos.
The distance from the bus stop to the Stadio Olimpico is at least 500 meters. At first we couldn’t see the stadium. It’s huge, but surrounded by a maze of other buildings that are part of the Olympic Complex built decades ago. Although we couldn’t see where we were going, we followed the thousands going in the same direction. After we got around the single story buildings that form the outside perimeter of the Olympic Village, we could see people streaming in from multiple other directions. They flooded the area. It was daunting, intimidating, and worrisome. Again I reflected, "why did I bring my mom?" Shona and Maria were up to the battle. But a 5 foot, 120 pound, 88 year old great-grandmother who required support?
We walked by the polizia, a group or 30 or so, who, standing next to their horses, hung out like teenage boys at the school dance. Their eyes occasionally glanced out over the chaos of confluent humanity. Indifferently they then turned them inward to themselves and their seeming casual conversations. Nothing interested them yet. Maybe the fans from Bari would later on, but for the moment it was all-routine.
Where does one buy a ticket at a stadium in Italy? This is not an idle question! I’d really like to know. I’m sure someone can write a small instruction booklet and turn a profit. It’s not at all clear even if you get directions from those who are in the know. Countless fans were milling about, but we could see only one group organized enough to resemble a ticket line. It was 1 person wide at the box office window, 50 to 100 people long and at least 50 people wide at the tail. How was anyone to know who’s next? Obviously no one cared. You have to push, but that doesn’t mean you get any closer. After about 15 minutes of battling, the time for the kick off had passed. Yet, the "line" increased in size, by length and width. We were further from the window than when we started. Ominously, no one ever seemed to leave the line.
Inexplicably, there were 8 to 10 open windows to the left of our window and 8 to 10 to the right, and no one in line. I thought I’d try one. I went to nearest window and asked if they accept dollars. "Si, Si." He pulled out his calculator. "Sesanta cinque dollari per biglietto (sixty-five dollars each ticket)", he said. So I pulled out every dollar I had in my pockets. Alas, it came to $166. I was $94 short. I amazed myself. I would have paid the $265 just to be free from the insanity. I continued in broken Italian, "nothing cheaper." I pointed to the other line. He said, "same price." I didn’t get it. There were a thousand people; at least, waiting to buy tickets at $65 dollars each? They were fighting, pushing, shoving to get to the window. No one ever seemed to get a ticket. There had to be something I didn’t understand, but I didn’t get it. I still don’t get it to this day.
So I went to one of the windows on the other side of the "line." I was beginning to think I needed an education, very fast, and I wanted more information. There were no lines in front of any of the windows, though someone was present in the box at each window. I went to window #1. I asked the young woman, "Do you take credit cards?" "No," she replied curtly. "How do I get a ticket?" I pursued. "Baks Tin."
She said emphatically. "Baks tin." My daughter was behind me, " I think she’s saying ‘box ten,’ dad." The woman nodded. There were about 15 to 20 boxes, represented by the windows. Many windows were obscured by the huge struggling group. I did my best to count. Yep, number 10 was the single window that everyone was fighting to get near. There it was. Our destiny was everyone else’s. So we returned to our little place among the massive humanity accumulating at window 10. We found Maria, who bravely represented our place "in line." She was pressed on all four sides by the crowd who had gained another 20 in depth and 20 in width during the short period it took me to complete myinconsequential research.
She was feeling crushed and claustrophobic. "I can’t stay here," she shouted. It seemed a reasonable thing to say. So we hand motioned her to come out. We gave up. We were too late and too ignorant. We were never going to get a ticket for this Wednesday afternoon. It was hopeless. We walked away feeling let down and disappointed. We had traveled 16 hours the day before from San Francisco, lost a full night’s sleep, and had enough energy on this, our first day in Rome, to get within a few hundred people of buying a ticket at a godawful price. Maybe we needed to look on the bright side. We just saved $260 dollars. After all, it was now 30 minutes after the scheduled game time.
We walked about 150 meters when we discovered another ticket area. It was similar to the one we just left. There were about 20 windows. However, at this ticket area, there was at least 5 or 6 windows open. There were numbers like 25,000, 35,000, 50,000 and 80,000 outside, referring to the different prices, in lire, for the tickets. The lines were overall shorter. We looked at each other and I shrugged, "what the hell?" Three of us entered three separate lines. My mother stayed out of the fray. Within about 5 minutes, Maria got to a 50,000 lire window. Shona and I left the lines we were in. I could see my mom fighting her way towards us though she didn’t need to. As difficult as it seemed to believe, were going to get tickets. "Quattro biglietti, per favore (4 tickets please)," we requested. "Due cento mila lire (200,000 lira)," he responded. I gave up the 200,000 lira as fast as I had ever given up money in my life. Amazingly, we had purchased four tickets to an Italian Serie A football match. The guy who sold us the ticket couldn’t possibly have read our minds or seen how relieved we were. He was monumentally indifferent.