Yesterday I was frustrated and angry and despairing. I wanted to write a blog post along the lines of AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH and spew rage and cry and laugh hysterically. But today I feel so much better. In fact I have a big smile on my face. Maybe Italy is not so bad after all. Just maybe.
Yesterday I had my appointment at the Comune of Milan to start my residency process. I had waited two months for that appointment and my friend came with me to help translate. Unfortunately she didn't get a chance to do much interpreting as the building was open but nobody was there on account of Italy being a unionised country and all the staff had gone to their union meeting. So it left us with no option but to ring around switchboards for an hour, have Skype let us down repeatedly and then find nobody who knew anything about anything. So I was left with the only option of going this morning at 8.30 which felt like the crack of dawn and braving it out.
Well, we eventually got directed to a woman with an "non-me-ne-frega"* face and before we (yes I know my friend is amazing to get up so early to fight the tyranny of bureaucracy with me) had even opened our mouths I could see the answer was going to be a "no". Just as I was about to get ready to PRETTY PLEASE it a different woman walked by and took pity on our cancelled appointment state and coaxed her colleague to allow her to help us.
Such a pleasant surprise! She was super nice. She even called me as I was leaving the building to say I had forgotten to photocopy my passport and gave me directions to the nearest photocopy shop and then kept the desk open for us. As we left she blew us kisses goodbye. I am so grateful to her. If she hadn't stepped in it would have been months until the next available appointment.
This afternoon culminated in the same wonderful friend accompanying me to my x-ray. I bought her a coffee afterwards but I think she deserves flowers, cake and several bottles of wine for all her help. It was at a private hospital and the service for me as a state patient was fantastic. There was someone at the entrance just to answer dumb-ass questions about where to go and we paid within 10 mins. In fact my x-ray - which was a chest x-ray, as it turned out (who knew?)- was over BEFORE my appointment was even due. The service was so efficient that as I stood on the x-ray machine not understanding directions in my "stupid foreigner" way I found my face pushed abruptly into the metal and my arms hoiked for me. It was startling but probably necessary.
Ladies and gentlemen I can proudly announce, that what I had once thought too close to call is actually true. Yes. Italian bureaucracy is better than Belgian! Why, they even have a government here (and only the one!). Post office queues are only 30 mins long as opposed to 50. Regional antipathy is not so great that I am banned from moving to Naples if I so choose. It might take 6 months but I don't have to pay 300 euros to get a piece of paper that says I live here.
And these are all small comforts.
The next time an Italian complains at the post office I will say to them "Yes Italy sucks, but it could be worse. You could be in BELGIUM."
*"I couldn't give a s***".