It is always great having a holiday on the other side of the world. Most of the time you come home and think how fabulous it was to be doing things differently. So going to the other side of the world and living the day-to-day life, not as a tourist, but with fresh eyes, is something else. Here we are in Lucca, an ancient Tuscan town in Italy, living like a local for a year.
We rented an apartment in the middle of town, fully furnished, so when we arrived we unpacked the suitcases and started to live life the Italian way. It is exciting. Such a change from Melbourne, Australia. Each day we are learning to adapt to the way things are done here.
Take the “just popping into the local post office to get a form” process. Mmm, “popping in” is not quite the right way to describe the process. It’s the main post office, so we took our little dog with us and proceeded through the big front door where we were confronted by about 12 counters with only 5 counters with staff. All the staff looked like locals and I wondered how many of them would speak English.
Looking above each of the counters, we saw that there were numbers constantly coming up in red. There were lots of customers standing around the large airy room, but not too many in a queue behind each of the counters with staff. I cast my eyes over each of the customers and noticed that they were holding tickets with numbers. Okay, I thought, I need to find the ticket machine, so I glanced around and it was tucked to one side near the front door. When I had a look at the machine, I saw that there were four selections (in Italian of course), for me to decide what number the machine was to spit out. One choice was a money sign. That’s not for me! One had a question mark. I wanted to ask a question, so felt that that should be the one I needed. I took the ticket and looked at it. Number 19! When I went back to the counters, I saw that the staff were talking rather loudly across each other, and they were waving their arms while serving a couple of customers. The rest of the customers were just standing around in groups chatting while holding their tickets.
My eyes dance around some more and there up high is an electronic screen with lots of numbers finally came my number nineteen. It also had a number 2 beside it. My eyes quickly spanned the counters and I saw someone was at counter 2, so I got up with my ticket and headed over. I was greeted by a stern stubble-faced, smartly dressed Italian who was waving his fingers in the air towards the screen while his mouth quickly gabbled out words of which I had no idea. I looked up and the number 19 had disappeared from the screen. A lady was also standing behind me, and she sidled up to me and gestured that it was her turn so I stepped aside. Where has 19 gone?
Bob called out for me to grab another ticket, so I walked up to the ticket machine and threw the flimsy number 19 into the bin beside the machine and grabbed number 22. When I looked up at the screen, I was expecting 22 to be instantly flashing; however, there was nothing until number 19 popped up again! What the …! I had just thrown it in the bin! So I dashed over to the bin and rummaged through to find my number 19, deciding at the same time to keep number 22. When I look up at the board, 19 was gone again, but 22 was there and telling me to proceed to counter 4. As I rushed over, a man with a pile of stuffed envelopes steps in front of me, so I waited. My eyes looked up at the screen and 22 was gone!
What on earth is going on? With 19 and 22 in my hand, I decided to return to the damn ticket machine and take yet another number. This time it was 27. I felt like I was shuffling a deck of flimsy cards. At the same time I saw Bob walk up to a lady flashing her number 26 and he loudly enquired if she spoke English. She did, but didn’t have the time to talk to him as 26 was called to counter 7, and so she was off! Bob followed her, sidled up to her and anxiously asked what the actual post office process was, as all we wanted were a couple of forms.
As I stood watching the board with 19, 22 and 27 in my hand, Bob called out like an Italian Nonno, telling me to hurry over, to which the English speaking lady, in her perfect Italian, asked the lady at counter 7 for our forms. Two seconds later, we had them.
It was so easy, if you knew what to do, and did it with confidence. I wanted to hug the lady for her assistance, but was happy to quickly retreat from the post office. In doing so, I looked up at the board and low and behold 19 plus 22 and also 27 were all flashing at the same time! I walked steadfastly over to the rubbish bin and let those little pieces of paper with their disappearing numbers flutter into the bin.
I gave myself a headache from this very simple experience at the Post Office. I needed a postage stamp but thought, that could wait for another day as I was not going back to that ticket machine again. No way!
22 March, 2017