So I got a call the other day from the bank in Taggia. We don't personally have an account there but the Maberga Consortium does. The Maberga Consortium is the group for whom I now serve, with pleasure, as the secretary. This wasn't going to be good.
" nsdvioais fdlkaf navdoiiasd f Cornwell David Anthony cnoi ah dsoifn af coia dfona;eifhd Maberga andoi a;if aiodf problem".
Even after 12 years it's still sometime difficult to understand people on the phone. My comprehension of italian can be measured at an inverse relationship to the years of formal schooling and years til retirement of the people with whom I speak. Old farmers - no problem. Young bank directors, well....
"ok. I'll come by tomorrow to talk to you."
It seems that through the bank's process of checking whether I can be a signer on the Maberga account, they discovered that I owe them some money. Great.
The story goes like this....11 years ago when David and I owned a house in Piedmont we found Maberga and decided to invest. After asking every bank in Turin we found one who would take the risk of giving a mortgage to two fully employed people who happened to already own one house outright. Italians are rather reluctant to give out mortgages. So we found this one bank, who also happened to have a branch in Taggia where we were buying.
This that and the other thing happened resulting in the sale of the Piedmont house, the purchase of the Maberga house and the closing of the mortgage. All neat and tidy, all completed within a year. I'm sure that was an Italian record.
Oh wait. No, it wasn't completed. We just THOUGHT it was completed. No, it's still going on. As it turned out, to have the mortgage we had to have an account with the bank. "Fine, give us an account. We already have account with another bank so we won't use this one, but if we need it for the mortgage, fine, bring it on," is what we said. Well, more or less we said that...our Italian wasn't that good then. Actually, I couldn't even say that sentence now. Anyway....closing the mortgage didn't close the account. There was 50euro of debit from bank fees in the first year, that multiplied, compounded, expanded, gathered interest, and then fines were added. 50 euro turned into 1100 euro. It's a miracle! Just like Jesus and the fish.
"um...." I calmly say to the bank director helping me, "why didn't you contact us and ask for the money?"
"oh, I'm sure we did. I can see here additional charges for the postage for letters sent to you."
"hmmm. We never got any of those."
"They were probably sent to the address you left."
"hmmm...that's not so affective then as a system, is it?"
"no. Sometimes we send letters to people who have been dead for years."
"hmmm. So, now what?"
"let me make a call to the Turin branch."
Trying not to listen, but, well, a little curious about the fate of my non-account accruing fines daily, I accidentally over heard that by total chance the bank director knows the woman on the other end of the line. They did their bank director training together back in 1999. So I waited patiently while the mini reunion went on.
Hanging up, the director looked at me.
"and? now what?"
"well, let me see what can happen. I know the bank woman in Turin. We'll see what happens. I'll call you."
Yeah, three trips to the bank later it became clear that I was not going to be able to be a signer on the Maberga Consortium account.
Trying my American best to make a deal I said, "Well, that is a bit of a problem for the consortium, but the bigger problem here is that I don't want to have an outstanding debt with you. What if I pay you a small amount to cover the initial bit and that for your time sending all those letters that never reached me? That would clear me and make it not a total loss for you guys. Good idea, no?"
"Wellllll, signora, if I do that for you, let you pay less than you owe, I will have to do that for everyone."
"Ummmm....like to all those dead people you guys are trying to get a hold of?"
"well....yeah. But anyway, Signora, you don't have a debt with us. You just can't be a signer on any account until you pay us 1100euro."
"So, that's a little like having a 1100euro debt, no?"
"No, not really."
I'm not exactly sure if this event has heightened my frustration with Italian bureaucracy or made me love it more.
Just in case anyone is wondering how this affects my standing with the Consortium, I'm still secretary. I just can't sign any checks.
Stayed tuned for tomorrow's post when I tell you about the meeting of the Maberga Water Association at which we will be discussing the 1400 euro bill we received.