If you come to live in Italy from a country like the US, where culturally we are raised to expect explanations for things that don’t make sense, especially when money is involved, then the shock of the absurd can hit kind of hard at first.
Take, for example, the process of getting a driver’s license here. You’re required to have a “medical exam.” Mine took place at my driving school office, with some dude who may or may not have been a real doctor (“I’m not a doctor, but I play one
on TV at driving school.”), consisted of the equivalent of the eye test that the mean employee at the DMV has you do. Except mine also cost €25. No explanation. But “medical exam” complete. Check off the box.
Those of you who follow me on Twitter probably know that I’ve started working out. It’s doing wonders for my utterly non-existent self-esteem post divorce, plus some of the men at my gym are actually fit and therefore nice eye candy.
But I digress.
Point being, here in Italy when you join a gym, the gym has to get a medical certificate from you (that comes from your family doc) stating that you are in decent health so you can work out at the gym. Simple.
Last time I went to my family doc’s office, a colleague was substituting my doc. I asked if he could give me the certificate and he made a big deal: “No! No! I don’t feel comfortable doing that. I’m not your doctor.”
Fair enough. Could have performed a cursory physical, but whatever.
The guy at the gym keeps reminding me to bring the certificate.
That’s right. Because they’ll let you join and start going without it. “Just get it as soon as you can,” they tell me.
So finally today I go back to my doctor’s office. Salty 80-something super brash Roman spitfire secretary says, “What do you need, little one?” (Piccoli’ — shortened Roman version of piccolina).
“Need a certificate for the gym.”
“Ah. Ok,” she says, pulling out a pre-printed notepad of forms titled “CERTIFICATO DI BUONA SALUTE” — Certificate of Good Health.
“How do you spell your last name?” and she starts filling it out: name, birthplace, birthdate.
She tears the Good Health Certificate off the pad. “Here you go. 20 euro.”
Public health system, right? What?
“20 euros. It costs for the pool.”
Me, in a weird attempt to classify this statement: “But my gym doesn’t even HAVE a pool!”
“Oh. Well. Pool, gym, whatever. The Good Health Certificate for sports costs 20 euro.”
Um, ok. Glad that’s all clear.