Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bad Maberga Day Follow Up

note: if you are new to OliveKnitting or an avid reader who is behind in posts (shame on you), you'll need to read the previous post or this one won't make any sense to you. In fact, as it is, it makes little sense to me and I lived it.

Remember that "slight panic" I felt yesterday thinking that maybe something had gone wrong with my automatic bill pay that would have caused the electric company to turn off my electricity? Yeah, well...there you have it.

In Italy bills are paid every other month. It seems that I missed the july/august payment (or rather, the bank missed the july/august payment - but I'll get to that in a minute) which means that, given that it's October now, I haven't paid an electric bill since June. I must say here that Italy, although being disorganized at times, it is a humane enough place that they only lowered my power instead of cutting it off completely. They knocked my power down such that I can still turn a light on and keep my food cold, but not have the luxuries of hot water and clean clothes.

Let me tell you what was involved my discovering this bit of, rather crucial, information. It's a long story so grab a bottle of wine or a venti latte or something and get comfortable.

I started my detective work at the post office. We had received a notice of a registered letter that was waiting for us and I hadn't yet picked up (I'll take the blame when it's it is here). I waited for about 45 minutes in line at the post office only to find out that I can't get the letter because it was sent to David.

"But I'm his wife. We even have the same last name!"

"Yes. But this is a registered letter for him, I can't give it to you unless he's signed the back of this little card."

"But he's out of town. He won't be back for a couple of weeks. The letter is from the electric company and I don't have any electricity(I exaggerated for pity). I need to know what they want!"

"Yes. That's a problem. But I can't give you the letter with out the signature."

After saying this she winked at me. Did that mean I was supposed to go outside, forge his signature and then come back in? I think that's what she was telling me. Italians, in my experience, are disorganized, humane AND they know how to work the system.

So I went outside, contemplated the forgery but then thought, well, I have that option but let me see what else I can do first. Truth be told, I just didn't want to spend another hour in line - especially with the possibility that when I got to the front she'd call me a criminal, call the police, and I still wouldn't have the letter.

I went to the bank instead. There I saw my teller pal Mimmo. I asked for a print out of my account activity. No payments to the electric company in the recent past. So after a brief discussion in which Mimmo informed me that there's already been frostings in Chicago, I asked about the electric company.

"Hmmm. Nope. No payments to them since...ummmm, June."


"Hmmm. I don't know. Have you gotten any letters from them?"

I launched into the story of the registered letter and the post office.

"Yes, that's a problem."

"I have the money in the account. There wasn't a bill that was sent back was there?"

"No. But it could be because our bank was bought out by another bank."

"But that happened a year ago! You've still been paying my automatic pay bills."

"Maybe the grace period expired."


"Come back with the last bill and we will call them to find out." This was very kind of him, knowing that phone calls to the electric company are trying and confusing for anyone but a nightmare and impossible for a foreigner.

"Ok, I'll be back after lunch."

"Or tomorrow is fine."

Yeah, right. Whatever. I've got to do laundry and have a bath!

"I'll see you this afternoon. When do you reopen in the afternoon?"


2:35???????? Ok, fine. "See later."

I went home, collected any and every bill I could find. And I tried calling the electric company myself. They informed me that they lowered my electricity because I hadn't paid the last bill. I told them that I had automatic bill pay through my bank. They said that I didn't. I said that indeed I have had since 2003.

"No, you don't, ma'am."

Back at the bank at 2:35 I was with Mimmo again. He looked at my bills and called the electric company. He was put on hold for 20 minutes. That's not an exaggeration. I stood there waiting, while Mimmo waited and a queue grew behind me...a long queue. He finally got them and, indeed, they didn't like that the bank had changed name and therefore they had a new code for automatic bill pay and so the whole thing needed to be set up again.

Mimmo: "I can do this for you. But you should go to the post office and pay this old bill now. And then call the electric company to tell them you've paid so they turn your power up."

I signed 14 forms in triplicate and ran to the post office. They too have funny hours of operation and I didn't want to miss them.

Another wait of, only 20 minutes this time. Phew. Done. Solved.

I went home and called the electric company again to tell them that I paid, I had a receipt and they could resume my hot water/laundry power.

"We need to see the receipt."

"How? I can't fax it to you because I don't have a fax and the post office is closed."

"Go to a tabacchaio."

"A cigarette shop?"

"Yeah. Do it tonight."

Back down the hill to my smoke shop. We fax the receipt. And I find out that I can pay bills there too, I don't need to wait in those horrible lines at the post office. Great. Good to know. The smoke shop is my new favorite place in the world.

Given that it was now going on 7pm, I didn't expect the resumption of my electricity immediately. But I was comforted in knowing I'd done all that was needed. All would be better in the morning, or at least sometime today.

Ok, I wasn't really sure of this. So when I woke up I called the electric company again.

"you need to fax us the receipt."

"I did that yesterday."

"But you need to write the customer id on the receipt."


"Yes. But you still need to write the customer id on a piece of paper and fax that with the receipt." At least he didn't tell me that I had to write my fixed-line home phone number on the damn receipt.

"Ok. I'll do that now. And then when will my power come back?"

"By midnight the day after."

48 hours?! We're getting mighty close to me greeting my parents being dirty, in dirty clothes and in the dark on Friday.

I went back to the smoke shop.

"I needed to include my customer number with the fax we sent yesterday."

"But it's on you receipt." says my new best friend at the smoke shop.

Yeah! I KNOW! Hey, it's your country!

"Yes, but can we try again?" I say, more diplomatically.

So, now it's done. Solved. Again. Cross your fingers for midnight and the resumption of my power (electrically, that would be - I'm feeling rather empowered personally my this a strangely, out-of-control kind of way), it can't hurt given the randomness of everything else involved in this situation.

PS. Having told this whole story with the backdrop of Italy, I feel the need to mention here that in the past week I've also been dealing with bank disorganization with my bank in the US. The point, my friends: cash under the mattress.


  1. Anonymous3:11 PM

    ...and without all of this confusion, what else would you be doing ? This is what the good Lord
    has put in place to keep you from being bored out of your skin up in Maberga (and of course, spending time in your "Fort". Just look at all of the valuable lessons you have learned, and in just 3 days!
    Love Ya, TFC

  2. Wow. Some people live off the grid on purpose, but having it thrust upon you is another thing all together. Where we live in the South, it has been a bit of a cultural shock on occasion, as well--but it's not as if we have left our continent. ;)