Wednesday, November 07, 2007

THE YELLOW "BLUES"

I am not referring to the colours of an Italian football team or to the EU flag, but to the corporate colours of the Italian Post Office, which, although I wrote that it had much improved a few weeks ago, has managed to depress me yet again!

Today it took me one hour and forty-five minutes to pay my gas bill in there. [This was the bill for part two of last winter and it was enormous, so that hardly lifted my mood either.] I had tried to get the deed done yesterday lunch time, for usually the place is quieter during that period, but gave up after one hour. Irma, who happened to be there too, walked out after ten minutes, so I don’t think I displayed a particularly un-Italian lack of pazienza when I threw in the towel !

This morning I arrived there armed with a bottle of water and a [long] book and, after taking my “ticket” [oh, how the Italians love “il ticket” and I could understand this affection if the possession of one made the slightest difference to the speed at which you are served] I settled myself down for the duration. My ticket said “C105” – ie, that you are there to pay a conto corrente [bill] and, when the next “C” number is displayed on screen, you should be able to work out how many people are ahead of you. Well, I waited and waited and “P” numbers for postal services came up, as did “H” numbers for post office account holders, numbers for business customers and numbers for “pensionati” to collect their state pensions, which are paid out by alphabetical order of surname at the beginning of each month. Today was "F &G" day, which is not as bad, here, as "A & B" day, but you know you are in for a long wait if you have to carry out a transaction on any "pension day". [The PO was closed on the 1st, for Tutti i Santi / I Morti, which has not helped the process this month.] I am truly sorry to say that the pensionati are half the trouble, though it is not their fault, as collecting their due seems to require a myriad documents, signatures and [literally] official rubber-stamping on these. But do they get annoyed? – They do not, for they seem to regard it as a chance to meet friends and as a joyous day out! Every now and then one of these old dears will mistake the letter on their ticket, amble up to the counter and say, “But I thought it was my turn” and the clerks often decide it is quicker to take pity on them than argue. Well, no “C” numbers came up for an hour and eventually what I hoped would be a rebellion began, as a group of women shouted at a clerk, “Ma perché non si mostra mai il C? Noi siamo qua da due ore – non è giusto!” [= “Why doesn’t the C ever come up? We’ve been here 2 hours – it’s not fair”] and I joined in this cry, because I’m buggered if there is going to be a revolution without me!
The poor clerk just replied that she couldn’t help what her computer did but she did seem relieved when it started showing “C” numbers. Of course, we were only on about number C 65 at this stage so I was plunged into despair anew as I realised that the belligerent women had calmed down and the revolution was for another day.

By 1pm, the building was nearly empty but still, you see, you had to await your “magic number” and as the harassed woman clerk kept pressing her computer button to bring up the digits on the display board, she started using the intervals when no one appeared to gossip to her colleague instead of pressing the button again to bring up the next number! I was at screaming point by then, and had even closed William Hague’s biography of Pitt the Younger – I was rather thinking of throwing it at a clerk or at least one of the computers – when the elderly gentleman next to me started clapping his hands and shouting at her, “Signora, non c’è! Avanti!” [= “That person is no longer here. Get on with it!"] I could have kissed him!

However, when my turn did come, reader, I got the nice male clerk with the smile and the sparkly eyes – and for that I forgive Poste Italiane everything!

11 comments:

marymaryquitecontrary said...

Well, Welchcakes "Everything comes to he who waits". A nice Sicilian with sparkling eyes is worth the wait! Actually I would be really impatient, I can barely wait if ther are more than two people in front of me at the supermarket. Does everyone have to go there to pay their gas bills?

jmb said...

I think I would have been carted off from the Post Office, frothing at the mouth.

I sit at home and pay my gas bill on the computer, at midnight or 1 am or whenever. I tell the bank to transfer the money from my bank account to my account at the gas company. If I really wanted to be hands off completely I can tell my bank to pay every gas bill directly with no effort on my part at all. This I don't do but many do.

When is Italy going to get with the program in these things.

Better have g & t.

Winchester whisperer said...

What an absolute nightmare! At least you didn't have to stand in the queue.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, MM & jmb. I do have my other utility bills on direct debit but you have to physically take the form for this to the gas office, which is not reachable by public transport, so I haven't got around to it. [For the others I just filled in forms at the bank.] As you say, MM it was - almost - worth the wait! Hi, WW. What queue?! They just mill about all over the place. There are more chairs in there now, though they are pretty uncomfortable.

Sharon said...

We don't even have the *take a number*. It is always who is the last person in line question. The local rumor is the Post Office will be closed, FOREVER. The new administration is banging its head trying to prevent this. The only bank closed down about 4 years ago and this fall the Pronto Sorcoso closed. No money to keep these places open.
My husband hates the bill paying at the Post Office. Some bills can be paid at the Tabacchi and others at the Internet Cafe.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Sharon. The ticket system is a recent innovation and means that at least you can sit down. How will you all manage without a PO there? It is awful that these services are shutting down.

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

1 hr 45 mins???

This must be a record...

Do they not have direct debit in Sicily?

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, Crushed. Yes, a personal record! Yes, I have my other bills on DD - it's just more complicated to set up for gas and you have to go to their office which is in an impossible place.

Liz said...

Even for sparkly eyes and a nice smile I don't know how you could stand it!

MJW said...

In Verona in September we went to a main post office to buy some stamps, but it was horribly confusing for someone who is used to just stamding in a single queue, after about five minutes of total bewilderment at what was going on we scarpered and eventually bought some from a tabac.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Hi, mjw. Yes, I can imagine your confusion. Even the Italians don't know what they're supposed to do sometimes!

Counters


View My Stats