The fog of the Veneto had smothered the entire Venetian Lagoon with a cottony wall of cold vapor. There was nothing to see on this vaporetto ride out to the Lido—nothing outside the windows that is. Inside the cramped boat’s cabin, I stared at the back of a fellow passenger. He, in turn, was staring at the back of the person in front of him. And on it went from back to front of the boat. Like several hundred anchovies in a tin can—the salted kind from Sicily—we were jammed into the steel confines of this listing vessel. It seemed like a one-way trip to Purgatory.
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My dad was a people watcher. He could sit in a public place all day long and watch the world as it passed by him. I grew up in New Jersey—the outer suburbs of New York. An area ruled by autos, it was rare for us to take public transportation anywhere. But, when we did take the bus, the train, or the ferry, my dad would invent stories about the people on them. I suspect that we all play this game whether consciously or not. We label people and assume certain aspects about their lives. The mental stories become more elaborate when we’re forced into the idle observation associated with public transit.
The vaporetto is Venice's public transit service. Venice being Venice, the public transit does not have tires nor rides on rails. It floats. This alone makes it superior to any public bus, train, or subway on earth. Add in the canals and lagoons of Venice and the comparison to public transit anywhere else becomes a bit silly. Riding a vaporetto is like nothing else that life has to offer.
The *motoscafo* is the Venetian version of a taxi. Since Venetian avenues are of water, its taxis are, of course, not automobiles. They are boats. However, to simply label a motoscafo as a boat is a gross disservice. To be the passenger of a motoscafo is like being a time traveler, an exotic adventurer, the hero of a romantic novel, or maybe even a movie star. Add your own imagination, your own superlative. One transforms immediately upon stepping down into the rocking craft. The ride in a Venetian taxi is one of the few things in life that surpasses the expectation. It's that good…that exciting.