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, January 3, 2011

Where in The World is Western Union?

Even though their daughter is a 30something professional, married to an Italian State employee (that's worth a lot, here, in Italy), mother to two (fast) growing children - my parents do what all parents tend to do: they give me money. With oceans and continents and islands between us (they're in Hawaii), they use what parents of far far away kids have used for centuries before them: Western Union. 

I don't know if it's Western Union, itself, that makes receiving money so difficult or if it's just another case of It's-Italy-Therefore-It-Must-Be-Made-Difficult-For-The-Sake-Of-Tradition. I dunno. What I do know is that receiving money through Western Union in Italy has never ever been a simple thing: the shop is closed (consecutively for days), the shop can't "get online", the shop doesn't carry that amount, the shop has moved to another location, the shop just doesn't feel like offering Western Union services today. 

Once, when we were still using the lire and the dollar was obscenely high in comparison, I went to the Western Union office to retrieve 837,000 lire, about 350 in dollars. Everything seemed to go rather smoothly. I was impressed. The clerk asked me the usual questions and as usual I wrote everything down on a slip of paper. Sender's name and location, my name, the transfer number and the amount expected. For some reason, I gave an approximate amount. I wrote, 800,00 lire circa, which means "about 800,000 lire". After making photocopies of my documents, he counted out exactly 800,000 lire. "Wait," I said. "There should be more." 
"Oh? Really? But you wrote 800,000 lire." 
"Yes, but the precise amount is 837, 000 lire. And also, where is my receipt?"
"Don't you have it?"
"No, you didn't give it to me."
"Wait, please." And the clerk walked away. Came back. Walked away, again. Came back, again and then dialed some numbers on the office phone. He didn't get an answer and so he walked away again. He came back, dialed again and spoke into the receiver. I couldn't hear everything that he said, but I could make out some numbers. He hung up. He turned to me and said, "Oh, please forgive me. There was a problem with the connection and the full amount was not shown on my screen. Now it's working." He gave me the remaining 37,000 lire and then with a click of the mouse, he printed out my receipt. "I'm so sorry for the inconvenience," he said. Hmmm ... I can't prove it, but it seemed to me like he'd tried to pocket those last 15 dollars. 

Mrs. Mom sent me some money for Christmas. She sent it using my first name, but Mr. Marito's last name. In Italy, women take on their husband's surname informally. Legally and even among friends and family, they are still known by their given maiden names. So this was a problem and I was prepared with the prospect of being denied retrieval because of this discrepancy. What I hadn't anticipated was going both to the first and second shops which offered Western Union services only 3 months earlier and finding them both out of business. I went to the Western Union website and looked up office locations near me. It would seem, according to Western Union, that I was surrounded by shops offering their money transfer services. But poor Western Union. It was obvious they could not keep up with the short life span of many Italian small businesses. Most of the offices listed had been closed for months. 

One was open, a Mail Boxes Etc. I didn't even know we had one in our neighborhood! I found the store quite easily, opened the door and entered. A huge German Shepherd lunged at me! I like dogs, I do. I just don't like when bigger than me dogs which I don't know attack me. I screamed. The man behind the counter yelled, "Dick!" (pronounced Deek, I don't know why, but Dick is a popular name for dogs here, weird) He pulled the dog by the collar and said, "He's just saying hello. He wouldn't hurt a fly." Well, that's nice, but I didn't know that and I'm guessing most patrons who aren't familiar with Dick wouldn't know that either. He somehow managed to pull and push Dick behind the counter and while attempting to hold the dog back by using his foot, he started tugging at a small file cabinet. I realized what he was trying to do and offered to help. So there I was, first attacked by friendly Mr. Dick and now pushing a heavy file cabinet to block the space between counter and shelf so that Mr. Dick couldn't attack me again. We finally managed to block him in. Mr. Dick walked to the opposite side of the counter and stuck his head out of one of the spaces in the large wooden crate that was blocking the other exit. The clerk, breathless by now, greeted me, "Allora, cosa posso fare per lei?" What can I do for you? I told him I needed to use the services of Western Union. He gave me a funny look. "Spedire o Ritirare?" Send or Receive? "Ritirare," I replied and he frowned. "No," he said, "I'm afraid I'm unable to establish a connection. I'm sorry." Ugh. 

Off to the second open shop I found on the website. It wasn't too far from Mr. Dick and Mr. Breathless. I approached the store entrance and saw two gentleman who, I believe, were Indian or Pakistani. "Buon giorno," I said and smiled. "I need to use Western Union." They looked puzzled. I turned to the yellow and black advertisement stuck on their front door. "Western Union," I repeated. "Ohhh. Nononononono no," said one of the men waving his finger from side to side. "Due settimane nononono cambiare gestione ancora venti giorno nuova gestione ok?" Which basically translates to, "Two weeks nononono to change owners still twenty day new owners ok?" No okay. But I understood that I wasn't going to get Western Union services here. Off to number three. 

It was the farthest from my house and in a neighborhood I had never been in before. Business was good, apparently. Many people, mostly men, were standing about outside the doors and windows smoking, talking, scratching off lottery tickets. I walked in and was amazed. It looked like a 7-Eleven or a Quick Stop inside, only with products packed more tightly together. I wasn't sure at first where to go. There was an L shaped counter, but it was divided by glass windows into 3 sections. There were people standing in all three lines. One was obviously for Lotto and Lottery tickets, the other two looked like normal checkout. To which should I go? I walked to the first line and stood behind a woman waiting to pay for toiletries. The clerk walked from one window to the other, serving one customer, maybe two and then another. His Italian was very good although heavily accented. He was a short man which he more than made up for with his loud shrill voice and he had an unlit cigarette that he managed to keep between his lips all the while shouting to one patron and to the next. When it was my turn, I readied myself for the loud barrage of greetings and salutations that was to come. "Hello, good day, I'm so busy, I'm alone here, so many customers, no one else is open, what can I do for you?!" "Well," I replied, nearly shouting, myself, "I need to pick up some money with Western Union!" "How much?!" he asked. I told him the amount, it was under 200 euro. He raised his hand to his face and waved at me. "Nonononono," he said, "Too much, too much. I don't have that much money." Ugh. 

Last one. Western Union? Check. Online? Check. Enough funds? Check. I gave him all the required information. His computer screen displayed everything, exactly as I had written it down. I gave him my carta d'identità, my identity card. He looked at my document, front, back, front again. "No," he said. He couldn't continue. The surname that appeared on the screen did not match the surname on my document. "Yes," I explained, "I realize that, but you see, this is my married name and if you look here, you will see that my document states that this is, in fact, my husband's last name." But there was no reasoning with the man. On the front of my document, my entire name is listed, including my married name. On the front: Jane Smith Johnson. Inside the first page: Surname: Smith, Name: Jane, Married to: Johnson. But apparently, there was a very good chance that I was one of many Jane Smith Johnsons who had happened to correctly guess that another Jane Johnson (minus the Smith) who is in Rome, would receive money from Sally Smith from Honolulu, Hawaii and somehow I had managed to come up with the right transfer number and the exact amount to be collected. You never know. At least, that was the clerk's reasoning. So, I was denied.

Carta D'Identità 
it has my married last name on it
where it says Stato Civile: CGTA. which means, Married Status: 
Married   LAST NAME  

the front cover has my full name, married last name included. Isn't that enough ?!?!?! ARGH !!

Well, that was a morning well spent. Now, I know of all the locations in my neighborhood where Western Union offices do not render Western Union services. *bitter sarcasm

Is there no end to my misery?!

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