Yesterday, Matt Bonner answered readers’ questions in the Matt Bonner Mailbag but I omitted one answer from Matt because it deserved a separate post due to the wonderfulness of the story. Enjoy!
From Alexander Rose: We need to know more about what happened when Matt was playing in Sicily. I want to hear more stories about that experience.
Sicily enforces its traffic laws rather loosely (at least back in 2003… maybe things have changed?). It was my experience that you had to do something REALLY awful to get pulled over by the Carabinieri . So let me tell you about the one and only time it happened to me.
I was running a tad late for practice one spring morning. I hopped into my spacious team-issued Nissan Micra , and took off for practice. I was zipping down the side street where my apartment sat on the Strait of Messina. After .83 km (half a mile), I veered onto the main road that would take me to the arena.
I quickly noticed some people riding bikes in the middle of the road. Without thinking twice, I executed the customary high beam on/off/on/off/on/off as I swerved into the on-coming-traffic lane to pass them. Apparently, flicking your high beams repeatedly let’s everyone else on the road know that you are about to do something crazy and to get out of the way… Ludacris style.
I made the pass and came around the corner to find a huge amoebic mass of like 40 bicyclists taking up the entire street. After realizing there was no way around them, my brain began to register the hundreds of people lining the street waving flags and cheering. I was right smack in the middle of a professional bike race!
The road was clearly closed to traffic, so my side street’s intersection with the main road apparently got overlooked when they were setting up the roadblocks. I’ll never forget the look of shock in the spectators’ faces at the site of this rogue automobile quickly approaching the rear of the peloton.
Next thing I know, a policeman is in the middle of the road marching toward me waving this little hand held pole with a red circle on the top. He looked really mad and clearly wanted me to stop. Walking in the middle of the street toward a speeding car in order to pull it over doesn’t seem like a prudent strategy. But what do I know?
Luckily, I managed to avoid running him over and veered to the side of the road. I rolled down my window and he immediately proceeded to cuss me out (at least that’s what I perceived he was doing) in a very physically expressive way. He was yelling, screaming, waving his arms and even acted out riding a bike. Unfortunately, it was all in Italian so I had no clue what the heck he was saying. After the tirade, he started asking me some questions. Of course, I couldn’t understand him, which only infuriated him even more. I didn’t know where to find the registration, proof of insurance and I didn’t have my drivers license with me (or passport for that matter). I just kept telling him I didn’t speak Italian.
At some point I realized there was a Palacanestro Messina T-shirt in the backseat (yes, shocking as it may be, the Nissan Micra somehow had a backseat). I grabbed the shirt and presented the team logo, repeatedly pointing back and forth between the logo and myself. The policeman put two-and-two together and reacted by bowing his head in anger and frustration.
It was at this point I began to get nervous. Was I going to a Sicilian jail? How would anyone find me? I didn’t have any ID on me. Not even a cell phone! Do the prison meals consist of pasta, lasagna, tiramisu and espressos? Maybe it wouldn’t be that bad…
But all he did was wave me on, without even looking up. I was free to go. The race had advanced far enough down the road so I made it to the arena without a problem.