This should be the title of an off-Broadway play.
Here’s the thing, people. Today I write you this tidbit not to complain and bitch. No, no. Perish the thought. Complaining and bitching about Italian bureaucracy is strictly for amateurs. I’m over that. No, folks, I consider myself a seasoned pro by now, so I have better things to do with my time than tell you about long lines and unfriendly clerks at the post office, and mail that never or almost never arrives. (Besides, I’ve done that many times before.)
Today I just want to have a few “ha-has” about how silly this whole thing is. I was tempted to say “how silly this whole tarantella is.” The tarantella is a folk dance from southern Italy, and Italians say that as a colloquialism to refer to the elaborate song and dance you have to do to get stuff done.
So here’s the deal. I have cell phone and Internet service in a bundle from Wind/Infostrada. When I signed up I gave them a credit card to charge each billing cycle. This month the card didn’t go through. So I call to ask why, and get a card ready to give to the person on the phone so I can get the bill paid.
You know, you figure if you’re dealing with a private and not public office, a modicum of efficiency might be had.
Well. You figure wrong, my friends.
Besides the fact that the lady was sooo annoyed because I couldn’t understand her that well so I had to keep asking her to repeat herself (at one point I heard her audibly make one of those big, put-out sighs, and I go “Listen! I’m not trying to make your job difficult. But clearly I’m American and therefore Italian is not my native language. So, you know, help me out here. I just need you to spell it, ok?”), it’s just not that easy to pay your bill.
Annoyed lady: “Well, signora, now that your card has been rejected once, we can’t accept credit card payments anymore.”
Me: “Um, ok. So how am I supposed to pay?”
Her: “Bollettino postale.”
Cue death music.
The bollettino postale (oh God, here I go, amateur hour) is the dreaded “pay the bill at the post office.” Jesus. And believe me, he’d be the only one who could help me do that in a reasonable amount of time without hassle.
Me: “But I didn’t get a bollettino on my bill. So how do I go about paying it?” (Usually the bollettino is a slip of paper you tear off your bill and take to the post office to pay with.)
Her: “Get a blank one at the post office. Fill it out with this information…” And she proceeds to rattle off indecipherable numbers and street names and I’m thinking, are you kidding me? Not to mention the fact that they don’t leave these forms out for the public, so you have to ask for them. One time I asked why they don’t leave forms out for the public. The clerk told me “Because people steal them.” I go, “Why on God’s green Earth would people STEAL postal forms?” Then it occurred to me. They “steal” them because they hoard them so they don’t have to ask for them because the postal people never leave them out for the public because they steal them. Catch, meet 22.
Droning on: “Then after you pay it, you need to fax the proof of payment to this number…one-five-wearethemostinefficientserviceintheworld-four-ten.”
Me: “Wait. What if I just want to put a new card on file? Couldn’t I just do that now with you, over the phone?”
Her: (sinister laughing) “No, for that you’d have to go to the Wind store in person.”
Her: “You have to go in person, and ask the clerk for the form. Then you fill it out, and fax it to this other number.”
Now I swear, at this point, I started laughing for reals. Which, of course, only served to piss her off further. Me: “Wait. You mean to tell me that not only do I have to go IN PERSON to a shop, but then I can’t even give the completed form BACK to the guy who gives it to me?”
Her: (completely offended) “Of COURSE not! That’s private information, signora!!”
Oh, right. Now I’M the asshole. No, seriously, people. THE MIND BOGGLES.
So obviously, after a week, I’ve gotten absolutely no where paying my bill because I avoid going to the post office like the plague. My only consolation is that it’s August, so probably no one will be at the post office except me and maybe some other poor schmuck whose card didn’t go through at Wind.
Pssst! Come in real close. I want to ask you something.
How much do you want to bet that if I call back and get a different operator, I might be able to pay over the phone with a credit card?
Lesson #1 in Italian bureaucracy, public or private: Never give up with the first employee. They all make up their own rules based on their own needs. Try a few until you are absolutely sure this is actually policy.
People, I need to hold a masterclass, I swear. I should give flipping GUIDED TOURS to new arrivals about how to navigate this stuff. So, if you were wondering about the screen shot from the arcade version of Double Dragon, here it is: I continue to contend that Italian bureaucracy is akin to a 1980s-era Nintendo video game, where you need to complete all the levels to then get to the “big boss” and if you kill him with fire power and have extra lives, you win. A.k.a. you get to pay your bill.