(This photo has nothing to do with the topic of this blog, other than the fact that I snapped it on the way to my mission yesterday, and it made me happy)
Procrastination is my middle name. I think I've admitted to it somewhere in my blog before. I ought to join a 12-step program for it- Procrastinators, Anonymous. Is there such a program at Betty Ford?? Yesterday, procrastination came and bit me on the rear end yet again. You think I would have learned by now, but no....
The thing I procrastinate about most here in Venice is dealing with the Italian government. If I have to do anything... ANYTHING..where I have to brush elbows, shoulders, fingertips even, with the Italian government in any way, I am going to put it off until there is absolutely no putting it off any longer. Well, guess what, yesterday was that day. There was no way around it, I had to go deal with them. It takes all the will power in the world for me to gear up for it. I can predict it will end in no good. My stomach starts to churn, my nerves kick in, I'm just a royal mess. And this is quite unlike me. Normally, I don't take crap from anyone. On this side of the Atlantic I have been conditioned to be a bit less assertive. Maybe that's a bit more cooperative. Docile even. Whatever it will take to get through with the least amount of agony.
I spent the entire first year of our lives here in Italy dealing with the Italian governement. Days and days and days of horrendously painful experiences going head to head with some clerk at some sportello (counter - you know the ones like at the Department of Motor Vehicles in the US?) at some agency in some city somewhere in Italy. Venice, Bologna, south of Bologna, the whole region of Liguria- I was there. None of them were very happy experiences. And as a result- my dealings with any Italian agency become an occassion for me to put my middle name into practice. I procrastinate.
Yesterday I had to pay a visit to the Anagrafe office near Rialto. The Anagrafe is the Italian version of the Department of Vital Records in most states in the US. I had the forms I needed all filled out, I thought I was ready, and set off nice and early for what I predicted would be a long morning. Happily, the office was almost empty when I arrived. Me, another girl, and an elderly couple already in place at Sportello numero 7. I took my number and took a seat. With it being so empty, I thought this wouldn't require much waiting. Wrong. The little old couple were still at Sportello numero 7 over 35 minutes after I took my seat. I also needed Sportello 7, and so did the other girl a few seats over. Patience, Karen. Just find some patience. Too bad I never learned to whistle!
I kept myself busy scanning the internet (yes, thanks be to God, there was internet reception inside the building). Finally, it was my turn. I take my spot in front of the glass divider at Sportello numero 7, hand over my forms, and make sure I tell the guy on the other side right off the bat that I don't speak Italian fluently, but if he speaks slowly, I will understand him. Right, that didn't click because he started rattling off at warp speed as he proceeded to review all the fields I had filled in on the form. Blah, blah, blah, yes, hmm, ok... and what are the other names of the people who live in the apartment with you? I pointed out that I had that information already filled in. Two of us. Yes, but who else? No one else. More people- who are they? After several rounds back and forth, I finally got him to understand that it was only just us two- my husband and I. Ok. Fine. He asks me to hand over the identification documents for my husband, which I don't have on me. Bingo! I knew this would happen!!!
This is the same rouse they use every time. They make sure they withhold some detail - something you need to do or have with you. When you get up to that Sportello thinking everything it's going to be smooth sailing, that you have everything possible--WHAM! They tell you something you didn't do, which requires you to go home and return another day. Not this time. I make sure I clearly understand the documents he is asking for, get on the phone to Mike, tell him to make copies and hop on the next boat to Rialto. I turn to the guy behind the glass divider, smile, and tell him my husband will arrive Subito (right away). I won't need to return another day. He says Good. When he comes, you don't need to take another number. Just come to the window.
I knew it would take Mike about 30 minutes to get from Sant'Elena to the Anagrafe office, so I took the opportunity to go have myself a cup of tea at a nearby caffe in Campo San Luca. While I sat in the caffe I had time to reflect on my adventure so far, and compared it to those of 5 years ago. Five years ago I would have turned tail and slunk out of that office so fast you wouldn't have seen me go if you blinked your eye for a nanosecond. Five years ago I would have been stammering, pointing, showing the guy a piece of paper with my Google translated questions and answers on it. Not today. I was speaking Italian, I didn't slink anywhere. I know the score at this point was still City Hall -1, Karen 0, but the day wasn't over yet and I was ready to go for Round 2.
While waiting, I also had a conversation with a lovely couple from Norway who were seated next to me. Had I ever been to Norway, they asked. No, but we have friends there. We have friends there! Listen to me! Yes, I can say we have friends in Norway now. Venice has done this for me. I can tell you with 100% certainty that had I still been living in Baltimore I would never have made friends who live in Norway. I now have friends around the globe, in fact. I spent the rest of my time waiting for Mike to show up reflecting on the many ways my life has changed since getting on a plane to Venice in 2008 and not looking back.
Mike arrived with the necessary copies in hand. Yes. Round 2. We go back into the office and stand near Sportello numero 7. The guy behind the glass divider has been replaced by a woman, but she nods in our direction and mouths that we should wait a little bit. She handles one more customer quickly then motions us over. She takes the copies of Mike's identification, then looks up and says I need copies of your Codice Fiscale and Karen's Carta d'Identita (like a tax id number and my Italian identification card). Well, we have the originals with us. No, she needs a photocopy of all of them. Why didn't Guy #1 tell us this the first time? I bit my tougue and kept that question to myself. She gave directions to a place in Campo San Luca where copies could be obtained quickly, sent Mike on the errand and motioned me to take a seat to wait. No new number needed.
Ten minutes later, Mike returns with the photocopies. Two minutes after that we were back at the Sportello. One more minute and we had a printed out receipt and were out of there!
We headed over to Campo Santa Margherita to run a few errands and grab a quick lunch. I sent Mike to our local fish monger Paolo to buy shrimp and mussels while I headed into Punto, the local grocery store for the few items I needed, with plans to meet up at the caffe to eat. Shopping completed, I walked across the campo towards our meeting spot. Rosella, Paolo the fishmongers mother who also works at the stall, gives me a wave, and yells to me "I have your shrimp all cleaned for you!". I did a detour over to Rosella, paid her, retrieved my package and went to meet my husband for lunch. I am loving life. Does it get any better than this???
Over lunch, Mike and I replayed the morning, noting how different it went compared to what we would have done several years ago. This mornings transaction would have turned into a 3 trip event before we had a receipt in our hands. It might have even required hauling a friend along to do some talking for us. Not this time. We stuck it out, managed it all in one swoop and kept our cool.
We even shared a laugh about the guy asking for all the rest of the names of the people who lived with us in the apartment, not believing it was only us two. I suggested to Mike that I probably should have listed 27 Bangladeshi who throw those annoying blue lights up into the sky in St. Mark's square. If you have been to Venice recently, you know those guys too. It would have been fun to see the expression on that Anagrafe guy's face!