Yes, I’m being spoiled.
But, back to my bureaucracy story. You didn’t think it had finished, did you? That like all beautiful fairy tales, they sailed off into the distance happy and healthy?
Not so, my friends.
If you have to deal with the Questura any place in Italy, I recommend always getting there before the doors open. In some places, like Rome, many people get there hours before or even sleep out in the hopes of getting an audience the next day.
Most Questuras will not just open their doors to the public though. Most of them will open at their specific time, let in a certain number of people if there are too many, and close again. They may open again later in the morning if they finish all the people inside. But who would want to work more?
We arrived stupidly, and late at 8.45. They had already opened the doors for the morning. It was close to 0 degrees, and the few of us there were took turns complaining and stamping our feet to pass the time.
Two hours into the wait, a couple that had been waiting outside miraculously turned up on the other side of the gate. The older man took me aside and told me, “I went to the front entrance and told them we were the only two waiting and they told us to come inside that way.”
Furious that I hadn’t thought of it first, and still holding on to my American way of respecting a line, I resisted trying the same trick. But the cold had gotten to me. And my feet.
I went to the front entrance and asked, “Are you going to open the doors? We’ve been waiting for two hours.”
After confirming I was married to an Italian, she cautioned, “Call your husband to come over here, but don’t say anything to the others.”
We entered in the other entrance and took our place in line. There were about 15 people still inside, and one person working at the “Application” windows. The “Pick-up” windows were empty.
Finally, after standing at the Pick-Up window for about 15 minutes, a young, swarthy man approaches the window. “Do you need help?”
We give him my receipt that was given to me when I submitted all my paperwork. He takes it and walks off. Then he comes back to the main room. Then he leaves again. Then he comes back and walks to the right side and ruffles through a pile of papers. Then he goes to the back and ruffles through some more. Then he leaves again. Waiting…
He comes back empty handed. “I’m really sorry, you’ll have to be a little patient. By chance, do you happen to have all the paperwork with you that you submitted?”
“Oh, ok.” He gives us a hesistant, (did I detect embarassed?) smile. He walks back off. Then he comes back and ransacks the cabinet next to the receiving window. He asks the other colleague for advice. He closes the cabinet and returns to the window. He looks around, confused.
“Did I give you back the receipt?” He searches our hands with his eyes.
“Oh, ok.” He turns back to the cabinet, opens it, finds our copy, looks relieved. He leaves again. He returns (we’re working on a good 30 minutes now of looking).
“The application is blocked for some reason. I’m going to have the Inspector come out and give you an explanation.” He disappears with my receipt.
40 minutes pass.
Not knowing who the Inspector is or what they look like, we look at every person who enters the office for help. As they say in Italian, “Non ci caca nessuno.” No one gives us a second glance.
Finally, a blonde woman saunters up to the window. She looks to us for an explanation. We question her immediately.
“So your colleague told us that the application is blocked. What’s going on?”
“No, it’s not blocked.”
“Is it lost?”
“No, it’s not lost.”
“They told us that it would take three months. It’s been four.”
“Yes, well, who can really say? Do you have a copy of all the documentation you submitted?”
Why do they keep asking us this? Something’s not on.
“No, we don’t.”
“Well, if you brought it in tomorrow we could have it (the permesso) ready for you tomorrow.”
A strange tone goes off in the background, like when Uma Thurman is about to destroy people in Kill Bill.
“Why do we have to bring another copy? We’ve already given you everything.”
“I’m trying to do you a service, to speed things up.”
“We’re leaving this afternoon on the train, and tomorrow for London.”
“Well, you can mail it, send it registered mail, and we’ll do it immediately.”
The ninja sword comes out. Sara raises her voice, in public, and in Italian.
“IF WE ALREADY SUBMITTED THE PAPERWORK, THEN IT EXISTS SOMEWHERE HERE! WHY CAN’T YOU GO GET IT AND BRING IT HERE, AND WE’LL DO IT RIGHT NOW?”
“Do you want to get angry with me?”
At this point the haze was too thick to really think correctly. We exchanged a few pleasantries after that, mostly consisting of her saying nothing, and everything, and us telling her where she could go.
But it was obvious. They lost my paperwork.
Back to square one after four months.