Italian Postal Logic

10 Apr

Poor Poste Italiane. No one likes them.

Every time I write anything about the good ol’ PT, I inevitably get a random Italian commenter who hasn’t ever read my blog before (and thus has no idea how adoring I truly am of my adopted country), but somehow landed on that one post where I get all complainy, and tries to defend the PT in the comments by suggesting in some creative and colorful form that if I don’t like it I can go back to my own damn country.

Ok, maybe not every time. But lots of times, anyways.

Maybe it was calling this post “Italian Postal Service I Hate You With All My Heart” that made some readers think I’m bitter and cynical. A bit over the top? I dunno. Perhaps.

Maybe it was the one called No stamps, this is the post office.

Maybe people just don’t appreciate quality sarcasm anymore. We’ve become so jaded, haven’t we? It’s too bad all our days can’t be filled with delightful post office banter like this.

Well, as you might already know, the Italian postal service (and here I use the term “service” very loosely) is a never-ending font of things to both ridicule and belittle.

And yet, today I don’t have any complaints to add, but rather a quiz (or as they say here in Italy, “queets”) question for you.

I need your help, as a matter of fact, because no matter how I try to wrap my brain around this one, it just keeps getting tied up in knots.

Please observe Exhibit A:


Besides the fact that this is an exceedingly rare moment in that there seems to be NO ONE in the post office (I promise you there were 10 people just a couple minutes later), have a look at “What’s Wrong in This Picture?”

Well, frankly, I hadn’t noticed it. But as I was waiting in line, the one line that was formed because the number machine was broken, I overheard a woman loudly say to an elderly lady approaching the counter: “You see?! There was a reason why they turned the chairs around!”

At which point, obviously, I look at the row of chairs and discover, in fact, that they are all facing with their backs to the “service” windows, when usually they are facing the windows. The usual chair configuration does actually make sense, really, when you take into consideration that if you have your back to the NUMERICAL DISPLAY you won’t be very likely to see YOUR NUMBER when it’s called. So, you know, number machine broken, maybe chairs must be turned around? Unless, well, ok, perhaps it could stay that way even when the number machine works, maybe if you were to hold up a compact mirror over your shoulder, and/or you are a single mom of three children under age ten like I am, at which point you would certainly have at least two, if not more, eyes in the back of your head like I do.

Anyways, herefore cometh O Wise Explanation to aforementioned conundrum, according to postal patron number one. However, before the big reveal, I’d like you to take a moment and try to guess why, using your own common sense and logic, according to postal patron number one (who I assumed received this pearl of wisdom directly from the postal clerk), the postal people decided it was a good idea to turn all those chairs around.

You got it? You got your guess ready? OK. So here’s what the woman said:

“You see, since there aren’t any numbers because the number machine is broken, and since we all have to form one line starting over there, well, the chairs are turned around so that way, if the line gets long, people can sit down in these chairs, like so.”

The old woman nodded, as if that somehow made perfect sense to her.

Perfect sense.

In my mind, a comment like that deserves only one thing, and that one thing is known in my world as the hashtag #WTF.

But, this is not my world, you see. Oh no, make no mistake about it: this is the Italian postal “service’s” world. I only live in it, occasionally stand in it for long periods of time, and most certainly never sit in it with my back to the service windows, even if they do make the effort to helpfully position the chairs in a way in which I could comfortably do so.

But why stop there, I ask myself. No, dear reader, bonus: I’d also like to let you know, that if you so desire, you can get dental insurance through the post office. Will you just look at how happy that toothpaste smiley-face man is about this proposition?


Dental Postalprotection: Smiling has never been so simple. (I want to kiss the copywriter who came up with that one, really, I do.)

But wait! There’s more!

There’s an entire CATALOG of randomness that you can buy through your post office. It’s even seasonal. This one is Spring 2014. That means there are four a year, people! YAY! Look how happy the family is, sitting as they are in front of a soccer match! You can even buy a flag! Weee!


Stamps? Pshaw, you silly! But a “Dual Motor Relax Recliner”? Oh now hellll yes. Now that we have, at the low, low price of just €449,90. (Postal geniuses, you’re not fooling anyone by taking 10 cents off. We’re totally onto you and your reclining chair scheming.)


That is, unless you prefer the collar massager for 10 cents short of €55.

We’ll even make it super easy for you with a loan on one of our pre-paid debit cards: “The loan that recharges your desire for shopping.” Yes. Because we’re the post office. That’s what we do, you see.


You know what though? Shit. I’m usually not one of those “Americans Do It Better” kind of girls, but in this particular instance, I just have to get on out there and say it loud, say it proud: when it comes to useless products, AIN’T NOBODY like us here Americans.

Don’t believe it? Just try me:

(If I had been drinking milk I am fairly certain it would have come out of my nostrils from laughter at 2:15. Nice perm, BTW.)

Ok, fine. I hear you though. You’re saying, “Oh Shelley, PT is such an easy target. Move on already.” Which makes me think of an Italian phrase that I simply adore. It goes like this: “E’ come sparare sulla Croce Rossa.” We Americans say something like, “It’s like shooting fish in a barrel,” (naturally, of course, because all Americans carry at least one gun on their person at ALL TIMES), but the Italians say, “It’s like shooting at the Red Cross.” God I love that phrase. [And, by the way and just so you know, Mythbusters confirmed that shooting fish in a barrel is, in fact, easy to do.]

And before you dismiss my humble blog as pulp fodder for the ignorant masses, I’ll have you know that this dude at Yahoo questions wanted to know “Why do they say it’s like shooting at the Red Cross?” and some benevolent soul took the time to respond that the GENEVA CONVENTION prevents shooting at health workers in war zones, so it’s like attacking someone who’s defenseless and can’t fight back. Another helpful know-it-all says that it was common to bomb Red Cross encampments in war zones in all the wars post-1864 (when the Red Cross was founded). In any case, if you need a real-life, in-context textual/visual demonstration of this expression, I direct you here. I will not, can not, put a picture of Britney Spears’s buttocks on my blog. Not gan do it, not at this juncture, wun’t be prudent…

Today I had to go to the post office to pay a bill (naturally) so I decided it would also be a good occasion to mail a letter I needed to mail. A real, honest-to-God, thank you card, from a box of US stationery I had sent over from Papyrus via my ex-husband’s luggage with a real, honest-to-God stamp on it. I kid you not when I tell you that I went to the tobacconist before the post office, so I could purchase a real stamp. As I hand over the card, I am careful to bring to the clerk’s attention: “It already has a stamp on it.”

The guy behind the counter takes my letter, stares at it, turns it over a few times in his hands, marveling. (He was marveling, I swear to you, it was unmistakable.)

I was like: “What? It’s a letter.”

And he goes: “That’s a beautiful thing.”

Indeed, my friend, it is. Indeed it is.


15 Responses to “Italian Postal Logic”

  1. Monica April 10, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

    Hahaha! Thanks for the laugh! I am an Italian living in SFO and I totally get it. Logic in the Italian postal system? There is none! Which is why, when I need to mail anything to my family – who are way up north in Italy close to Switzerland – I mail it to some friends in said Switzerland and my parents drive over to pick it up!
    Anyone attempting a defense of the PT is clueless. Haha!

  2. Chris Pettit April 10, 2014 at 7:53 pm #

    Monica, you poor thing! Are you really living in the San Francisco Airport, SFO? I didn’t realize the customs agents were so hard on Italians..

    Shelly, brilliant post, as usual.

  3. Monica April 10, 2014 at 8:18 pm #

    Hahaha! You funny Chris. I should have said SF, not SFO. I actually live in Marin County, so just north of the Golden Gate. I use San Francisco as a reference.

    As for Italian customs and postal service: one time I mailed my mom a tiny box containing an even tinier bottle of make up that cost $16. Within a week of my shipping she got notified that it was there, that she needed to fill out a form to claim it, pay about 15 euros to process the form & customs, then pay customs on it. In total it cost her about 30 euros, and she had to wait another 6 weeks before it was delivered to her.

    Now you know why I ship to my friends just over the border.

    Shelly: I agree with Chris. Brilliant post. My first, but I subscribed to your blog because I enjoyed it so much. 🙂

  4. Shelley Ruelle April 11, 2014 at 8:12 am #

    Ha ha! You’re welcome! The post of mine that I didn’t link to in the article is also having to do with the Swiss… when I had to mail out my wedding invites I sent them through Vatican Post, not trusting PT to handle them.

  5. Shelley Ruelle April 11, 2014 at 8:12 am #

    Thanks Chris! That’s so kind of you!

  6. Shelley Ruelle April 11, 2014 at 8:13 am #

    Monica, PS thanks for subscribing! Your website is absolutely GORGEOUS!!!!! Eye candy!

  7. Monica April 12, 2014 at 2:15 am #

    Haha! There you go! People here in the US complain about the USPS, but I have never had any problems with them.

  8. Monica April 12, 2014 at 2:16 am #

    You are welcome Shelley! I really enjoyed your post. I love your writing style and it’s fun to hear of life in Italy from a different perspective.
    I am happy you love my blog/e-zine, not sure what to call it yet. It’s my pet project. I am a photographer, so it is bound to be rich in images.

  9. FRANCO in Canada June 16, 2014 at 10:35 pm #

    During my last visit to Italy, a constant refrain heard from my cousins and friends when someone would ask:

    “tutto a posto?”
    (everything all right? everything OK?)

    “BEH!… un po alla banca… un po alla posta!”
    (Well, a bit at the bank and a bit at the post office!)

  10. Shelley Ruelle June 18, 2014 at 9:42 pm #

    I’ve never heard that … am I super dense that I am not catching the meaning??

  11. FRANCO in Canada June 22, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

    DENSE? No, not at all!

    I did not know either BUT here you go:

    Postal savings system
    (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
    Many nations’ post offices operated or continue to operate postal savings systems to provide depositors who do not have access to banks a safe, convenient method to save money and to promote saving among the poor.

    This is the case in the region of Puglia.

  12. Shelley Ruelle June 29, 2014 at 8:47 am #


  13. Nicole December 23, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

    I’ve been trying to figure out how to send a Self-Addressed-Stamped-Envelope to get an autograph from an Italian actor I like. The USPS no longer sells International Reply Coupons, and the staff wasn’t very helpful. So I hoped the Italian post service would help me out. Unfortunately, your blog (as well as a few others on your blog roll) are not filling me with confidence. Really, the actor’s website it just says to send a Self-Addressed Envelope. I thought it was a typo but now I’m wondering if they weren’t keeping this in mind…

    I just want an autograph darnit!


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