Stet by Ria Bacon

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Lock down

While millions are heading towards Rome, many Romans are heading out before the city is locked down tomorrow with the closure of both airports and many major roads out of town. Judging by the ease with which I managed to find a parking space this morning, many have already left. In our office, tomorrow has been declared a "non-working day", which seems like grudging euphemism for a day off. It's our daughter's sixth birthday, so we're ecstatic to be able to spend the whole day with her. We moved her party from Friday to Saturday because of the anticipated chaos.

Other signs of impending social collapse include the convoy of Red Cross ambulances from Palermo that I got stuck in this morning. I felt like I'd cut into a funeral cortège - that's a big no-no, isn't it?

The night was filled with wailing sirens ripping through the darkness at high speed. The single sirens were ambulances; the multiple ones were convoys bringing the 200 "big", as the local press calls them, to the Vatican, i.e. Bush and Co.

There is a constant stream of stories coming out about the faint rate in the queues, or how long people have been waiting with small children.
"These people are a living witness to the theology of sacrifice," he said. "They are showing John Paul with their bodies that they understood."
Rev. Jonathan Morris, an American priest working in Rome

The doors to the Basilica were closed at 22:00 last night.

I've also been receiving mysterious sms (text messages) from "Protezione civile" warning me about what clothing to wear during the day and at night. The latest message says the centre is closed to all traffic, that St Peter's Piazza is full and that there are giant screens in other piazzas and in Tor Vergata. Somehow I don't think the two million Poles will be content with watching a video screen at a university campus in a godforsaken suburb stuck outside the city limits.

Another mystery is the reported jump in Lotto ticket sales, up 20% in Naples. Whenever there is a significant event, people get twitchy about the twilight zone, or in this case, that great Italian tradition of getting money without having to work for it. The numbers they're playing? 21-37-48

Can you guess what they represent?