“Brazil” in Rome

In Terry Gilliam’s film “Brazil,” set in a dystopian, 1984-ish future, the protagonist hires an underground repairman after the mandatory state repair service botches the repair of his air conditioning in a progressively disastrous fashion. That, of course, leads to problems.

In modern Rome, a similar situation apparently exists, in which underground repairmen calling themselves “Gap” surreptitiously repair crumbling infrastructure. They must do their work in secret for fear of offending incompetent officialdom.

Of course, this story being in the Guardian, it has a slight, shall we say … slant:

Critics might argue that citizen action like that of Gap could discourage the government from doing its job: why spend time and money to fix holes when there are residents doing it for free? But Gap members hope their intervention energises the local administration into action.

Yeah. Critics might argue. Which critics, I wonder?

It’s funny that our own news media don’t report this and other stories about what is happening in Europe. It’s almost as if they don’t want the American people to get any ideas.

The story includes a bit about an exploding city bus, which reminds me of a couple of incidents back in the 1980s, in the D.C. area, when a couple of propane-powered tour buses burst spectacularly into flames a couple of years apart — one right in front of the Old Executive Office Building where I worked at the time. I took to calling the tour bus company “Hindenburg Bus Lines.”

Actually, in Rome, it’s not just one city bus. It’s at least 46! That means the Roman bus system deserves the moniker far more than poor Old Town Trolleys ever did. And the reason is, apparently, that diesel engines, which used to be considered wonderful, and which the regimes of most or all of the Western European countries encouraged and coerced people to buy, are now considered evil and polluting. We have always been at war with Eastasia.

So they have turned to natural- or other gas-powered buses. The problem with them is that, unlike diesel, if the gas leaks owing to ham-handed guvvamint maintenance, there’s the risk of fire.

Which reminds me that I saw a Washington Metro bus just the other day that advertised that it was powered by, wait for it, hydrogen, the volatile, extremely flammable gas used in the real Hindenburg. Let’s hope that the maintenance workers of the new Imperial City are a little more competent than those of the old. Ω

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