The battle between me and the Italian bureaucracy generators had been pretty quiet. I think perhaps that someone high up had declared a ceasefire. But signs that all was not quiet on that front began to appear at the end of the last year.
First there was the census. As the "head of the household" (according to the form and very conveniently for A) it was my responsibility to fill it in. What a headache all those bureaucratic terms! At least I could just rough guess the answer though if I wasn't sure. When that was done and sent it off via the post office I though I had done.
But unwittingly I had just made myself also responsible for paying the TV license. Damn. Another few trips to the post office. Through some kind of bad luck my nearest post office also happens to be the most unfriendly and badly managed one I have ever been into. That particular day all of the desks but one were closed (computer says no) and the cleaning lady was insisting on repeatedly cleaning the exact same spots everyone was standing on or sitting over with the dirtiest mop in the world while arguing under her breath with the voices in her head.
The atmosphere was horrendous. The one man behind the desk was breathtakingly abrupt and fed up with everything and the growing queue more so. At one point a random woman came in and started abusing him verbally for being rude on the phone. "Madam, I haven't answered the phone this morning!" didn't seem to deter her, and I started to wonder if the gateway to hell had shifted from that pothole in the centre of Turin to the south of Milan.
On the previous trip I managed to get stuck in the queue behind a man sending 20 boxes to Cuba. Each of which had to go through the system indiviually and required 5 mins computing time for each. Sigh.
Then I finished doing my tax return (an hour or two's headache to complete) and dropped it off at a random underground office staffed by only old people wearing tattered jeans and T-shirts (which doesn't bode well in Italy). The man said unhelpful things like, "I'm not sure you've filled in the right form," and, "Ok I'll call you." to which I replied, "Shall I take a seat outside then?" and he said "no, no I'll ring you." What? Why? Nevermind. Let's get out of here I need to get to work anyway.
Can't help but feel it needs some colour or something.
Then my bank card stopped working. I've been into the bank four times in person and rung them at least 10 times, for what must surely be a routine problem. Three weeks without money was getting ridiculous so this morning I took my lawyer with me. It was a very good idea, because he whispered helpful suggestions in my ear like "ask for her business card," (Bank clerks have their own business cards in Italy?!) and "if they won't do it there an then get it in writing that they will do it by tomorrow".
Is the end in sight? Too early to tell. But I have learnt something. Nothing works like in the UK. Oh it works alright, but just not in the way you expect. You just need to ask everybody to do all the details you would expect them to do automatically. The downside to this is that it is only useful if you know in advance the ins and outs of everybody's jobs.
Feel I have enough material to write a book about getting stuff done in Italy now, or at least a very long hysterical laugh.