At the Largo Argentina bus stop. A crowd, as usual, spilling off the sidewalk. The buses are taking longer than usual. Maybe because it's Friday.
The number 60 pulls up, slows, and then starts to take off, never opening its doors. An Italian woman whacks the door with her large shopping bag. "Oh!" she yells, the half grunt, half exclamation that's the Romans' more-gravelly version of an American "Hey!" The bus accelerates. Her bag drops to the street. "Ma dai, che stronzo!" she yells after the driver. He doesn't stop.
There's a man in an ATAC uniform, for Rome's public transport system, waiting at the bus stop with us. She turns to him. What the hell, she asks, why didn't the bus stop? He shrugs and barely flicks his eyes in her direction. What do you want me to do about it? he says. The number 87 pulls up. He gets on.
I get on the 87, too. I pull a euro coin out of my pocket and put it in the ticket machine. It rolls out. I put it in again. It's spat out once more. A young man next to me nods at it: "Fuori servizio," he says. Ah. It's out of service. Casting a nervous glance at the ATAC official, riding the bus with me, I back, ticketless, away from the machine. The official remains rooted to his spot at the railing.
Two minutes later, the number 87 comes to a halt before Via dei Fori Imperiali. Polizia metropolitana cluster in their blue uniforms, waving the traffic away. The bus driver rolls down the window, exchanges words with the police. Instead of heading down the street, it starts a laborious, rocking revolution around the Piazza Venezia green. "Non va al Colosseo?" asks the woman in front of me, who's certainly not going to the Colosseum to take pictures, but to get on one of the only metros in Rome's center to continue her journey. "No, signora, mi dispiace," the driver says. The same young man at the ticket machine pokes his head toward the driver. "Va a via Labicana?" "Non so." The driver doesn't know.
Via dei Fori Imperiali is quiet, the sidewalks busy. Military helicopters circle overhead. With a dozen others, I get off the bus at Piazza Venezia and start my 25-minute walk home.