I’m really starting to think that a pre-requisite for becoming an employed member of the ranks of front-line postal clerks in Italy, or at least here in Rome, is significant past professional experience either in the fine field of incarceration facilities (a.k.a. prison guard) or perhaps unsuccessful completion of a court-ordered anger management class.
What the hell is WITH Roman postal clerks?!?
Right. I came here 11 years ago, so yes, this should be old news by now and it’s certainly not new ground. I’ve faithfully hated Poste Italiane for quite some time. Exhibit 1: unbelievably laughable delays. Exhibit 2: local, yet logistically impractical, holy alternative.
In any case, I just want to keep you informed on good ol’ PT’s progress and evolution since those previous posts. Or rather lack thereof.
Today at the Largo Argentina post office, I had to pay two bills and buy some stamps. Since this post office is large and semi-evolved, they have a number system. All that usually means though is that you get a piece of paper during your 50+ minute wait. Today, amazingly, there were only two people ahead of me in the “P” number line.
Because, you see, when you go to the number machine, you get choices:
1) Poste Italiane bank account holder? Push here. Apparently you get special treatment. I think that’s an “E” but not sure.
2) Just need to do financial services (i.e., pay bills?) Push here. You get an “A”
3) Just need to send something? Push here. You get a “P”
However, allow me to note, that you can also push for the “P” and pay bills. It is written right there, in fine italicized print.
I approach when P196 is called. I go up to the window and present my two bills, half daydreaming. Next thing I know, I see the postal clerk lady’s head start spinning around like in The Exorcist, and she roars out at me:
Here’s me: “Wha?? Cosa?”
Then, super snide and seething—yes, seething—she says in broken English, “You need A number not P!!!!”
Oh my God. Now not only am I being barked at, I’m being reprimanded like a five-year-old who snuck candy and doesn’t even speak the local language.
Me, in my best academic and polished Italian possible: “You see, I have to also buy stamps. And on the machine it states that if I have postal business to do, like buying stamps, then I can also add in financial business, such as these here bills.”
She: “Oh. Well. You didn’t tell me, so how was I supposed to know?!” Clearly. Kindly file this under “I’m an Italian public office employee, therefore I have not, do not, and will not ever be responsible for basically anything that occurs in, around, or anywhere within an at least 20 km radius of my workplace.”
She, in one big, grand, last flourish of prison guard-style customer service: “And anyways, we don’t have any stamps here.”
Oh no—no! You did not. You had to go and pull out the big guns. Why’d you have to go and do that? Why?
As much as I love Rome, this is something that after eleven years I CANNOT—as in CAN NOT—tolerate. You are the post office. Hence, you should provide me with the one essential product with which I may POST something. Am I wrong?
I mutter under my breath, but not really quietly, “The post office, and they don’t have any stamps.” Humph! I mean…really!
She, completely unfazed but strangely less hostile: “Strange but true.”
In the end, I think she took pity on me, because after I paid my bills in utter mortified silence, she started to ask me what kind of stamps I needed. This is so typical. It happens often in Italy that you get shot down by angst-ridden public employees who use you as their innocent punching bags, and then when you don’t freak out and retaliate like a total asshole, they just might come inching forward with their tail *slightly* between their legs. It kills me, because it’s like, you could have skipped the whole a-hole part and just asked me what kind of stamps I needed. Even though that question should be totally and completely irrelevant at this point, given that you just told me you DON’T. HAVE. STAMPS.
“I need to send a postcard to the Netherlands. And a letter to the States.”
“Do you have them with you?”
So she places one of those machine stickers on my postcard. I had been so flustered I hadn’t even thought to ask. Geez.
No luck on the US stamp, as I haven’t even written the letter yet that I intend to send. (That’s why I need a STAMP, people. It’s called ADVANCE PLANNING.) Go figure. Wouldn’t want to trouble the post office for a stamp, for God’s sake. What was I thinking?
But hey, don’t take it from me. There’s a small but militant group of expats and writers who can regale you with their tales as well:
How to Post Things to Italy – Alex Roe at Italy Chronicles
Postal Service in Italy – Living Italy
Everyone has their story. Consider it a rite of passage. Like getting your driver’s license. Or having your first scooter accident. Or getting shat on by a Roman pigeon (good luck, they say).