That would be me, Mrs. Moglie. Married to a native Italian, Mr. Marito.
Mother to a daughter in high school, Ms. SmartyPants and a son in middle school, Mr. Uometto.
Employed at a private British School as an English teacher and Coordinator of Children's Studies.
Part of a small, but growing Protestant church in Frascati, a small town in the hills just outside of Rome.

This is where I sometimes gripe, complain and grumble about the things I dislike, have yet to get used to or simply don't understand about bella Italia.
I do, however, have many people, places and things that I dearly love and I am more than aware of being blessed by each and every one of them.
Also - a few helpful posts for visitors to Rome or for newly arrived ex pats. Check the side bar for tags. I've even some recipes that I've borrowed, tweaked or invented. One thing I've come to love about Italy is how it's changed the way I eat - slow food !! Although ... I do miss Taco Bell ... and Jack in The Box ... and KFC ... and ::sigh::
Thanks for stopping by !!

Monday, November 1, 2010

British Queue or American Line - Either Way, It's Still Torture

If you plan on living in Italy, you should know that a great deal of your time will be spent waiting. Waiting at the butcher's, at the pharmacy, at the doctor's, at the post office, at the bank, at the county office, at the insurance agency, at the accountant's, at the ... well, just about everywhere, really. And if you've a spouse and kids, the waiting is even more frequent and drawn out. I don't know why this is. It just is.

Now, I know you may be thinking, "That's to be expected. Why, even here, in my small rinky dink American town, population 73, we have to wait in line for most things." And I hear what you're saying. I do. You just don't understand what I'm saying. You have no idea what waiting means until you've lived in Italy. You see, you're thinking, "Sure, it's a nuisance and a hassle, but if I put aside all other errands, I just may be able to squeeze in all of the above into one constructive morning. Say ... on Tuesday." And here is where you and I differ, my friend. I will have to put aside one entire morning ( 7:30AM - 12:30AM ) to do just one and possibly, but highly unlikely, two of the above mentioned errands. 

For example: Post office? Since it opens at 8:30AM, I would need to arrive at about 8:10AM because there, even this early, there will already be a long line of people waiting for the doors to open so they can get in line to receive a number in order to then wait their turn to be served. Most of the people in these places will be the elderly or retired since i giovani (young people 18-45 more or less) are too busy with school, work, hair salons, window shopping, sleeping, etc. to be bothered with such tedious chores. So parents and grandparents are assigned the task of doing most (read: all) things for them. This is the Italian way. Of course, that's not to say there aren't some parents who've gone against the tide and tried to instill in their children a sense of independence, autonomy and responsibility. These people do exist and occasionally you will see the rare 20,30 and 40something year old who has taken it upon himself to manage his own time and affairs and come to the post office and pay his own bills or pick up his own raccomandata (registered mail). I happen to be one of those people and God willing, I plan to raise Ms. SmartyPants and Mr. Uometto to be of this sort, as well. Anyway, back on topic, after receiving my number, I will have to wait at least another hour - hour and a half before I'm served. So, in this case, I will have another three hours before most (useful) businesses close. Unless of course I've had to go to another one of the 4 post offices in my area, but not in my neighborhood. Perhaps I've received a package and the postman had decided it was much too much trouble lugging a big package to my home and reasoned that it would be all the more convenient (for him) to simply leave me a card stating that he'd passed by and rang, but no one was home. On more than one occasion, my husband, leaving for work early in the morning and looking in the mailbox, has seen there was no letter then I, leaving the house just a few hours later, check the mailbox and find a notice saying the postman had come but no one was home. Right. Also, Mr. Marito had spent some of his years as a postman, himself, and can attest to this practice. He actually quit when he learned that his honest desire to work made him a target for the less inclined to shift all of their duties onto him. Anyway, if I'm to go to one of the other post offices, that means 25-40 minute bus rides, to and from, and no one ever knows how long the wait for the bus to actually arrive will be. So, even if I were to leave the post office at 10AM, I may not arrive at home until 2 hours later! Welcome to Italy. 

The Questura (Italian Police Station) is where one goes to report crimes, claim lost or stolen items and to do most other things normally done at police stations. In Italy, it also serves as a sort of local Immigrations office. So, for foreigners, such as myself, it is  necessary to report to the local questura for renewal, first issue, change of status, etc. of any legal documents pertaining to their visas. The agony of all things questura is a subject entirely in itself meant for another blog entry. There's so much to tell. A friend of ours, Mrs. SouthernFriedChicken refers to the questura as the Depths of Hell. A spot on analogy.

Just to give you an idea: once, at my local questura (each zone has its own plus one main headquarter for the city), having arrived an hour and a half ahead of business hours, I found myself standing alone at the front doors. Wow, thought I. I'll be number one!! Right ... About 10 minutes later, I noticed a large group of people gathered around one individual. I walked over, knowing that I might easily lose my "place" at the door. Good thing that I did. Here, the individual turned out to be a State employee who's job was to tear off strips of white unlined paper, write a number on it and then pass it out to people, like me. I pushed and shoved my way through to him. Rude? Maybe, but I had no choice. I reached him, well, more like, my hand reached him. I moved my hand in an up and down waving fashion, patting at his arm. The next thing I know, I felt a small piece of paper thrust into my hand. I closed my hand into a fist around that piece of paper, pulled it towards me and then looked: 84 . Oh. 

Only a few minutes later, the man announced that he had reached 100 and that there would be no more numbers handed out and then he left. More than a few people began mumbling amongst themselves about what that meant for them. I mean, I had come an hour and a half early. The poor lazy schmuck who came an hour and ten minutes early was simply out of luck. There were no more torn strips of paper to be handed out. 

Later, when the doors opened, it seemed to make no difference whether you had a number or not. People pushed and shoved and pulled to make their way through the one open side of the double doors. But once inside, the numbers did matter. A policewoman, loud and impatiently called out numbers: Numero uno !! Numero Due !! And number one and number two approached her. Well, that was silly of them. She yelled at them, "Che c'è?!" (What?!) They explained that they had the numbers she had just called out. "Well, what am I supposed to do?!" she bellowed, "Go to window number 7 !!"

So here was the procedure: Arrive at least an hour and a half before business hours, look for man surrounded by a large group of cold, sleepy and tired people, receive a number on a torn strip of paper, wait an hour and a half for the doors to open, when only one of the double doors is opened rush at it paying no regard to old ladies and small children, locate the scary angry policewoman, stay within earshot (not difficult), upon hearing her call out your number, rush to window number 7, hand the torn paper to the stale and expressionless policeman, state your business, receive a form to fill out and be directed to the queue number machine, press the button for your particular query, receive a printed paper with a new number that is now preceded by a letter of the alphabet, fill out your form and then wait. wait. wait. wait while employees gossip, laugh, have multiple coffee and cigarette breaks. wait. wait as other foreigners more dazed and confused than yourself are yelled at, belittled and humiliated in front of their wives, husbands, children and parents for not having mastered to perfection the Italian language and/or the Roman dialect. wait. That's the procedure ... for that particular day, at any rate. Things tend to change on a whim here ... and whims are as abundant as the varying degrees of downright dirty mean that you'll encounter, witness or suffer. 

this one's rather difficult, but here goes ... 

On the Bright Side
°while the experience of going to the questura and other State offices is harrowing, I've had the good fortune of never being completely humiliated, which, I've come to learn from other expats, is a rarity
°initially, I may receive condescending and superior attitudes from State employees, they soon soften and even become simpatici (pleasant, amiable) when they learn I am from the US and not, as they expected, China or some other backward third world country so very below their own which, by the way, happens to be the 7th most industrialized nation in the world, thank you very much
°while not a native Italian speaker, I am fluent and if I take my Italian friends at their word, I have a rather good pronunciation, too. Oddly enough, it seems to help me in many and varying situations to speak Italian with a very heavy American accent: no rolling of the R's, pronouncing TR as a CH sound (purtroppo becomes purchroppo), very tight O's ... I don't know if they find it amusing or if they take pity, but I seem to get much better service and a more pleasant disposition from most 
°with each new experience, my knowledge of what-new-and-crazy-possible-scenario-might-arise-today? expands and I'm better prepared for my next appointment of Fun at the Questura or any other random place in Rome
°I'm able to warn others and thereby be of service for the common good and mental health of all English speaking expats living in Italy

No comments: