Sunday, 26 June 1983

Dear Mom & Dad,

Hi. Hope you are doing well. By the time you get this, it won't be long till I call from Philadelphia.

You will find enclosed an article about driving in Naples. It sounds like it is all a joke. It is almost all true. Can you imagine such stupid rules? Can you imagine driving with people who think that way? We do every day. Of course, we broke rule #10, but we realized that when we bought this nice car. It seems to be worth the risk. (If you can, send a copy of the article to Jeannie's parents.)

How to Drive in Naples
. . . or ten unwritten rules you won't find in any driver's manual.

by Michele McCormick

    You've probably heard that it's impossible, but it isn't. By following a few simple suggestions even you can drive in Naples - for actual minutes at a time - without having an accident.
    What's the key? Nothing less important than your personal status as a driver. By merely maneuvering your vehicle in a manner which inspires respect among your fellow drivers, you readily earn the right to navigate the streets of Naples without disaster. Lacking that respect, you are doomed.
    You say you're interested in learning how to drive downtown and still have fenders and fingernails intact? Here are ten tips that can open a whole new world for you.
  1. Avoid looking at other drivers.
    To glance at another driver is to admit weakness and defeat. Therefore, if you wish to merge into moving traffic or make a left turn, you must do so without looking at the other drivers. Simply pull out into the flow of traffic. Cars will stop when you are blocking the roadway sufficiently.
  2. Pass whenever possible.
    Pass on curves, on downtown streets, even while driving three blocks to the post office. Every car on the road ahead of you is an insult to your stature in the community, and everyone you can get around re-establishes you as a person of worth. If your driving pattern makes it clear you are an insignificant nobody, you will never get through the most simple intersection.
  3. Do not swerve to avoid oncoming cars in your lane.
    This is a pitiful sign of weakness, and it may not be of much help anyway. The passing car heading towards you is no doubt about to be passed on its left by a third oncoming car. If the three advancing cars get dangerously close, you can always save the situation by passing them on the shoulder to their right, Neapolitan style.
  4. Blow your horn any time traffic congestion impedes your progress.
    Horn blowing may be forbidden by law, but surely that law cannot apply to you. You are a respected driver who is heading towards a significant destination. Blowing your horn announces this fact to all those around you and wins you further respect.
  5. If traffic becomes completely blocked, go for coffee.
    Simply leave your car and look for a bar which seems as if it might serve a decent espresso. An espresso, perhaps with a shot of whiskey on the side, is just the thing you need to perk you up at this frustrating moment. Perhaps you will have a nice relaxing chat with the proprietor. Perhaps you will run into some friends.
    Do not be concerned that your car may become a problem if traffic begins to move. That is the worry of those who created the jam, inconveniencing you.
  6. Do not strike a pedestrian.
    Not striking pedestrians is the one clear rule of Naples' traffic. Breaking it causes you to lose all respect and status and become the object of numerous lawsuits. Not striking pedestrians in cities is a great challenge, as they are to be found on the streets in unexpected places at surprising moments, as well as on the sidewalks in locations which would otherwise make ideal parking spots.
  7. When you are ready to park, park.
    Parking is a simple matter of stopping your vehicle, extricating yourself and locking the door (if you wish thieves to think there may be valuables inside). People who use marked parking places are invariably blocked in by rows of double and triple parked cars. Therefore, pay no mind to such markings. When you have reached your destination and are ready to descend from your auto, simply stop. You have reached the ideal parking spot.
  8. Disregard traffic signals.
    Most traffic signs and signals were not intended to apply to you. Rather, they have been prominently placed to provide a familiar comfort to tourists, or to help educate new drivers. No one expects them to actually control the movement of vehicles in any way, and they certainly don't.
  9. If you are involved in an accident, find an objective witness.
    A witness is an important asset in a courtroom situation, should your case go to trial. In a pinch, you and the other driver can always agree that it was the witness who actually caused the accident, thus relieving yourselves of further concern.
  10. Drive an ancient, battered vehicle.
    While driving a new Mercedes or BMW does confer status, that status may be short-lived. The likelihood of your being involved in an accident is directly related to the newness and costliness of your car. The average Italian realizes that it is hardly worthwhile to have an accident with the driver of a creakingly ancient vehicle; that person is probably under-insured. The driver of a '67 VW bug can earn respect through superior driving technique. But there is hardly any person who is less respected than the depressingly slumped figure behind the wheel of a hugely dented Mercedes sports car.

I very much enjoyed talking with you last Sunday night. I think it made a big difference in my attitude this week. I hope it didn't cost too much. I know it is cheaper to call back direct. Perhaps we can do that again someday. I will be in the hospital on a Saturday or Sunday every other month.

We enjoyed getting your letter the next day, too. I appreciate Daddy writing a little. Angelique enjoyed her letter. She put it on the refrigerator. The newspaper clippings were helpful, too. I had heard that a sheriff in Arkansas was killed, but knew absolutely nothing else about it. The article on Bendectin (the morning sickness drug) was helpful to all of us doctors at the hospital who prescribe it. We aren't sure what we will use for morning sickness now. (Let them suffer, maybe.)

I would love to have that book on Drug Therapy that arrived in your mailbox for me, but don't send it. It didn't cost me anything, anyway. Just keep it. Thanks for telling me about it.

Sounds like the yard has completely changed at your house.

I'm sure it was fun having Becky home.

Tell J.C. it looks like we won't need any sermon tapes until this fall. Apparently, both the American and Italian congregations go on summer hours and don't meet on Sunday nights.

The hospital looks impressive only from the outside. It looks like Fort Chaffee inside.

You can feel an earthquake most from the top floor of a building. It's like the top of a tree sways more when the wind blows. Same principle holds for an earthquake. The top of the building can move more. The hospital is really two separate buildings. There is a one inch crack between them so it's not supposed to fall down in an earthquake.

The best reason we live this far from Naples is that it is the best place to live. A lot of Americans live around Lago Patria. It is close to Pinetamare, where I work one day a week. It is away from the pollution and the traffic of Naples. If we had lived in a decent place in Naples, it would have taken 20-30 minutes to get to the hospital because of traffic. We can get there that fast from here by going down the Tangenziale (best translation would be "by-pass"). But it does seem like a long way every morning when I was used to living 10 minutes from work in Fort Smith.

I think Paul, the apostle, on his journey to Rome, came ashore in Pozzuoli. I am certain that he travelled up the Domiziana to Rome. Interesting.

The reason I had to take the CPR course is that you are supposed to take a refresher course every year or two. Since I hadn't, I had to take the whole thing over. It was simple.

The garage sale was by an American for Americans. We went to another garage sale close by a couple of weeks ago. All they had was junk. I'm almost sure that Italians don't have garage sales. I'm not sure what they do with their junk.

You can't see anywhere from the top of a volcano. They are craters, like a bowl. We didn't get as high as the rim. (Mt. Vesuvius is much, much taller than Solfatara.)

The wardrobes are light weight. They are wood, but I don't know what kind. The six doors in our room stretch about 11 feet. That's two matching wardrobes. They take up one whole wall in our bedroom. Angelique's wardrobe has 4 doors and is nearly as long. We had to take it apart to get it over here, then put it back together in her room. (There were screws and nails that were required to do that.) Steven's wardrobe has only two doors and is only about 4 feet wide. Plenty of closet space for clothes, etc. We will probably be able to sell them for as much as we paid for them.

We don't want a foreign car when we get back to the States. We want a big American one. Jeannie is doing fine with standard transmission. We both feel better about driving a more dependable car. It's fun to drive. It likes to go fast. We finally got used to having 5 gears.

I still haven't heard from David. I got a card (a note) from June on Friday.

On Jeannie's birthday, I decided I wasn't going to do anything "around the house." I wanted a rest from that and this was a good excuse. Your present came that day. She also got one from Diane. So I think it was a pretty good birthday for her. After she opened her presents we went to look at some kitchen cabinets at a house just about a half mile south of here. They were exactly what we wanted, to have just enough. We will get them this Friday.

Then we went to the Hotel Emilia for supper. We had been there before. The atmosphere is nice but the prices are terrible. The kids seem to do well there. We met a couple from England who just got here. He is in the British Navy. They have a little girl, 2 years old. We ended up eating supper with them, then brought them home to visit with them. We came to Europe to learn about Europe. We learned a lot about England, though it was hard to understand their accent sometimes. Jeannie will remember this birthday!

Before going to supper we stopped at one of the shops close by and bought some mozzarella. It is made from water buffalo milk. They raise water buffalo close by (not close enough to smell). Jeannie used the cheese Tuesday night to make us an Italian supper. Wednesday night she used it to make a pizza.

Tuesday I sold the old Fiat (automatic). I will feel even better when I have the money in my pocket, which is supposed to be this Thursday. I will sell the Fiat and pick up my VW immediately afterward. It will sure be nice to have that car. I am getting $1500 for the Fiat, which is exactly what I paid for it.

Wednesday morning I had to take a physical fitness test. I was sure I would fail since I haven't had a chance to practice & get into shape since we got here. I did 43 sit-ups in 2 minutes and ran 1 1/2 miles in 14 minutes which was enough to pass. I was really excited that I passed.

The rest of the day I worked at Pinetamare. At lunch a drug salesman (American), down from Germany, took me and 2 other people from Pinetamare Clinic out to eat at a nice Italian restaurant, which I have now promised Jeannie we will go to some day. Actually, I thought there were no drug salesmen in Europe. Apparently, he is the only one. I'm not sure if he had ever been to Naples before. Everyone seemed surprised that a drug salesman would come here.

Wednesday afternoon I bought a cabinet from someone who works at the clinic at Pinetamare and brought it home on top of the car on the luggage rack. I think we are going to have plenty of storage space.

Thursday night I had to stay at the hospital again. I delivered 2 babies that night.

Jeannie and the kids came up and ate lunch with me Friday. Friday night we ate an early and light supper, then went out. First, we went to a hardware store about a mile south of here where I bought some nails. I took some nails in my pocket to show him what sizes I wanted. (He doesn't speak English.) When he asked me how many, I had to say, "Non so," which means, "I don't know." I don't even know how to buy nails in the States. I never did it before. I just had to show him how many I wanted. He would take some out and I would say, "Piú," which means "more." We kept that up until I said, "Basta" - enough. I still wasn't sure if I had enough nails, but I knew where to get them if I needed more. I got two different kinds. He didn't have any nails exactly the same size as the American ones that I took.

After that we went to a gelatería and got some ice cream. Jeannie and Angelique got strawberry; I got chocolate chip. This was when Steven decided he liked ice cream. We also looked in several shops between the ice cream parlor and the hardware store.

Then we went to a couple of houses at Parco Mazzola, about a mile north of here. (A "parco" is like a "neighborhood.") At the first house were some friends who had put screens on their windows and we wanted to see how they did it. Then we went to the Brandt's, a family we met on the plane. They had moved in one week earlier and we wanted to see how they were doing.

Just as we got home, our specially built cabinets were delivered. (We ordered them two weeks ago.) They were supposed to be delivered at 3 pm on Saturday. We were shocked that they were delivered early. Nothing is supposed to happen early in southern Italy! We were very excited about getting them, especially Jeannie. They have added considerably to improving the usefulness of our kitchen. The primary benefit is providing counter space next to the sink and near the stove.

The kids are having a pretty good time at swimming lessons. Angelique was a little disappointed that she didn't do better the first day. The water is still pretty chilly. Jeannie and the kids are all getting browner. I didn't know Jeannie could tan.

Thursday, Ann Cummings (next door) took Jeannie to a big shoe store. We finally got Steven some new shoes. He has been wearing the same pair of tennis shoes for the past 2 1/2 months. They have really been looking gross to wear to church. Angelique got a new pair, too, and Jeannie bought some sandals. Each pair cost 7,000 lire (~$4.65). They are very good quality and would have cost between $25 and $35 per pair for the same thing in the States. If you have any shoes made in Italy, someone is getting rich selling them to you.

Yesterday, Jeannie got up early and went with Faye (from church) to Sorrento. They took the train from Naples. Sorrento is south of Vesuvius. She spent about $200 and came back with some beautiful things. (She might have spent more if she had taken more money.) We will definitely go there when you come. They have a lot of inlaid wood things. We now have a beautiful picture made with inlaid wood hanging over our bed. (It cost about $130. You have never seen anything like it. It was well worth the price. Absolutely beautiful. Bring lots of money.) She got back about 5 pm.

I worked on building shelves for our one closet yesterday and today. That was hard work! But they are finished. I have seen better, but they work fine. They increased the usefulness of the closet. Before I build any more shelves, I am going to buy a new saw, maybe even a power saw, if I remember how hard it was when I go to buy it.

After church this morning we went to a pizzeria for lunch. Even the kids ate a lot.

My muscles are all worn out from running 1 1/2 miles and building shelves.

Overall this has been a very good week. We have done a lot of interesting things. We haven't had to stay around the house all the time, but got a chance to get out. Jeannie really had a good time in Sorrento. We came here to see Italy and we are finally starting to. I was also pleased about selling the car and about passing my physical fitness test.

The landlord gave us a bunch of plums last week. They are good! Did I tell you he gave us some potatoes the week before?

The kids are growing & learning new things. Angelique is eager to learn Italian. Right now, her only exposure that she seems to learn from is TV. She is trying her best to learn to swim and to like being in the water. Steven does fine at swimming class unless Angelique cries, then he will, too. Steven continues to say more and more things that we understand. He usually repeats everything several times trying to get us to understand. He says, "Look" when he want us to look at something he has or did. He says, "Essie, Essie," for "Let me see." He says, "I did it." He says, "Hold me, hold me." He says, "Thank you" very well and at the least thing. He says, "Ciao" (pronounced "chow") which means hi or bye in Italian. He yells "Apple juice, please" over and over whenever he wants a drink.

It is now 1 AM and I need to go to bed. Goodnight and God bless you. Talk to you soon.

All our love,

Michael, Jeannie, Angelique & Steven

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