Do you remember playing that game as a kid? You would race towards each other on a bike or scooter at breakneck speed and see who would swerve at the last minute to save themselves from the head-on collision. Of course, some adults still play this silly game (usually when they are drunk)! I have also noticed that the Venetians like to play this game as well.
Venice is forever crowded and the personal space allotments are so much smaller than what we are used to in America. I can think of several instances back home where I was heading straight into another person while walking and we didnt play chicken. Someone was gracious enough to move out of the way, probably give a brief smile or say excuse me, etc. Just a common courtesy that one takes for granted. Particularly, being a female, I have become accustomed to the man moving out of his way for me. Now, this doesnt always happen--I find the younger generation has lost this sense of courtesy but you get the idea.
No such thing exists here. Walking in public is one continual game of chicken. And usually, the people who want to play are the Italians. Whether they are tired of all the tourists, have some sense of entitlement because this is their city, or they are just plain ol' rude, they are the least likely to move when you are on the crash course.
This was one of the things I had the most difficult time adjusting to in my first few weeks. Tourists will bump into you and not notice you, etc. but for the most part, they will offer some apology in their native tongue. I have yet to have an Italian say anything when they slam their body into mine in an effort to morph through my skin and arrive out the other side. You hear the occassional 'permisso' from behind right before you are hit, but you never get anything coming head on. The workers will yell 'attenzione' because they are carting something to somewhere and genuinely need you to move.
So you can imagine, this can get old quickly and I have had my days where I am tired of being cordial and making sure I get out of their way. As my ammunition, I have my height. Since I tend to be taller than most Italians (or at least the same height), I can stand up straighter, broaden my shoulders and prepare for the game. I havent won yet by the way! In fact, I got a great bruiser on my arm last week. But I will continue to play...for what reason, I have no clue....part of adapting to the culture I suppose??!!