Run away! Run away! No! Stand very still!By
Summer has so many regrettable aspects — heat, mosquitoes, tourists — but there is one aspect I always look forward to and that’s the special sort of dementia that overcomes people during this brief but intense — and hot — time of year.
I don’t know if the heat is to blame. Maybe these things also happen when the ice and chilblains move in and they just don’t get reported.
But here is what happened two days ago in Rome. I’m sorry it didn’t happen in Venice, though of course it could have. But I can’t let that detail stop me from telling about it.
An unnamed 37-year-old man was out on via Giorgio Morandi in the outlying area of the Eternal City called Prenestino. A quick check reveals that — according to someone — this used to be known as a Bad Neighborhood but by now that reputation is no longer deserved. Singer Claudio Baglione grew up here, if that helps you get a fix on its zeitgeist. Anyway,I’m just trying to provide a little context.
Back to the story.
This unnamed man, walking along the via Giorgio Morandi, saw a woman, also walking along. She had a handbag. He wanted it. So he grabbed it.
This was not an entirely spontaneous act on his part (though heat and perhaps mosquitoes might have degraded his decision-making capacity) because as soon as he had the handbag he ran away. Not just anywhere, but to his getaway car where he had installed two accomplices. (Why two? Did he need a spare in case one broke down?)
Did I mention breakdowns? He leaped in the car, they gave it the gas (or benzina or gasolio or whatever they fed it) and prepared to zoom away.
But there was no zoomage. After a couple of yards, the car just sort of putt-putted to a stop. (Pause for the sound of shrieks and head-punching: “You were supposed to put gas in the car!” “I thought YOU were supposed to!” “I told YOU to do it!” etc. etc.). Anyway, the car is now stopped very, very close to the scene of the crime, and it’s not moving anymore.
So the handbag-snatcher realizes it’s he who’s going to have to move. Rapidly. And immediately. He leaps out of the car and begins to run.
However, these precious seconds, spent in going essentially nowhere, have given the passersby a chance to focus on him. So he’s running, but now other people are also running: After him.
This is bad. They’re gaining on him. Must take cover.
So he runs into a pharmacy.
This could work, I suppose — he could stand there pretending to buy aspirin, or a truss, or some nicotine-replacement product. But standing in a small enclosed space that has only one door is not the best idea.
And here’s another bad idea: He was still holding onto the handbag.
Now let us turn to a recent study conducted at the University of Cambridge on the human brain. The researchers, led by neurobiologist Simon Laughlin, have concluded that the human brain has reached the limits of its intelligence — actually, the limits of its energy-capacity relative to its also limited space, kind of like our little hovel — and therefore can’t evolve any further.
It gets better: There’s no reason why it shouldn’t start losing intelligence, retreating under the inexorable pressure of everything involved in life on earth from playing “I Wanna Be The Guy” to getting your toddler to stop asking “Why.”
I wouldn’t have placed our 27-year-old failed Roman bag-snatcher in the “Our brains are too evolved to develop any further” category. But he’d make a superb candidate as an example for the “Our brains are evolving backwards toward the primordial alphabet soup” hypothesis.
They could do a study on him! First question: Is there anything in this room that reminds you of a lady’s handbag?