Today I spent the whole morning at the questura in Imperia. I don't know what the equivalent government office would be in English (I suppose that would depend on the country, really). The questura is where Italians go for documents like passports, visa, certain licenses, and where foreigners go for all things regarding immigration or permits of stay. It's not a pleasant outing, that to the questura. It's always a sea of humanity comprised of individuals who need something from a bureaucratic office. Everyone there knows that it won't be easy. No, that's an
understatement...everyone knows that they will spend an entire morning to hear "no". It doesn't matter the question, request or situation.
This is true for Italians. For foreigners...well, it's ...um...I don't know how to describe the experience.
First of all, if you are at the questura, 999 out of a 1000, it's not good news. So we all arrive at the office starting from a place of dread, and even a little fear. Then, we are treated to that welcoming way that officious places have reserved for non-citizens. (I can only imagine that Italy is not unique in their treatment of non-nationals trying to stay in their country) At this questura it looks like the foreigners being herded to a separate door in the back of the building where we have to wait outside for our turn on a dirty patio with no benches. It was raining this morning.
While waiting in this herd that comes from every culture imaginable (here in Italy, some cultures are better represented in the herd than others. I was the only American), we all try to follow the etiquette of our adopted country. In Italy, that means we don't form a line. We do what one does at any Italian office, bank, festival, or any place that requires waiting for your turn - we just gather in a group. But, since none of us are really Italian, we don't know how to do this skillfully. An italian waiting in a queue knows exactly the order of people's turns. They know who is before them and after, as does everyone else. There's no arguing. As I mentioned, the herd gathered doesn't have enough experience to do this correctly. There were 4 disputes while I was waiting. I got into one myself (I KNEW where I was in the "queue"!).
Once inside the door, you produce every document, piece of paper, envelop, record of any kind you've ever received and, well, they usually say no. They do this after looking in the computer and then going behind them to look for your file the 10 tons of files and pieces of paper in their storeroom. They've been collecting every document, copy, form, paper and envelop on you as you have done on them. After all this, which takes a surprisingly long time, they tell you some form of no.
My no this morning was a politely delivered "yes, but not today". It's still a no. It means I have to go to a few other offices and then do the whole experience again. Could have been worse, I suppose.
Anyway, in some what of a fog after losing the morning to the questura I decided to stop at the grocery store on my way home. I didn't really need anything, I just found myself driving into the parking lot.
As I aimlessly wandered the aisles holding a tube of super glue, a 6 pack of diet coke, and some dog chew toys I ran into pals Mette and Teddy . We stood there for about 10 minutes as I recounted my morning to their sympathetic ears. After getting the appropriate consolations, I noticed that we were in front of the breakfast cereals. Still being in some kind of fog, a box of Rice Crispies caught my eye. I mumbled something about what a rice crispy treat is and how I'd treat myself to some if they only sold marshmallows in Italy.
"But they do! I think you find them in the candy aisle." Mette chirped.
Then she added, "If you do make them, you don't have to make a lot of us."
That Mette! Sure enough...
Who would have thought that Italians would consider a marshmallow a piece of candy instead of the baking staple that we Americans know them to be.
This would probably explain why they are pink striped.
Ok, I admit it. After I found the marshmallows, I realized that a rice crispy treat wasn't really the treat I needed after my morning. But, it seemed that when you ask for something you think is impossible and then it appears, you can't turn it away.
I must be a rice crispy treat traditionalist because I have to tell you that the pink 'mallows don't really do anything for me.
Actually, I'm a little afraid to try them.