Monday, April 27, 2009


Part II was a complete misfire. On the misguided assumption that since they were open I could go and drop off the missing photocopy (see Questura Hell), I returned the following afternoon.

The Questura opens at 3pm one afternoon a week. The line was already forming at 12:30. Putting into practice what I had learned (assume nothing), I walked over to a guard and asked if I had to wait in line and get a number to drop off my document. "Yes," he said, "I would. But I couldn't do that today. I would have to come back tomorrow. That particular task could be done in the morning only. I reiterated that all I needed to do was drop off the document. He looked at me like I was stupid. In the morning, he said. You can do that in the morning.

The following morning I woke up at 4-30, hoping to get a minor jump on the line, and was on the 5-43 vaporetto and the 6-20 bus. The sky was dark with clouds, and a significant line was already forming by the time I arrived at 6-40. The window wouldn't open until 8-30.

It was the kind of line that got bigger both in front of you and behind you. A particularly verbal signora, seemingly not a straniera to judge from her idiomatic Italian, yelled at people slipping into the front of the line. She never won, but she kept it up and I admired her for it.

The pedestrian gate was closed and thus the canopied area behind it. The line formed in the open street. When the downpour started the umbrellas starting popping up, sending the line into spasms. It was empty under the canopy while people got drenched outside. Several smartly-uniformed officers watched from inside.

The gate didn't open, but there was a sudden mad surge in the crowd. The automated car gates swung open, and people ran for the canopy. Wherever you were in line, you weren't anymore. Squatters defiantly staked their new positions. Most of the people in front of me had been behind me. It was perfect chaos.

By the time the numbers began to be handed out, the line was surlier and tighter and pushier than Tuesday, which I didn't think possible. You literally couldn't move your arms and had no control over your own movement. When I got to the window I showed the officer my form. He told me to give it to him. I was so dazed I didn't get what he was saying until the lady who, seconds before had been pushing me like steamroller to get in front of me, said in slow Russian-inflected Italian, "lascia il foglio." Leave it. "No numero?" I asked. The officer shook his head. "My colleague will call your name."

Somewhere near 10 am the clerk who had processed me 48 hours earlier came out from behind the red door with a sheaf of papers. He called out names, mine among them, and we followed him down another corridor where he disappeared into another office with glass cages like a shabby bank. The door slammed behind him. From his glass cage he shouted someone's name through the door when it opened for someone else going out. A woman waved her arm, entered, and the door slammed behind her. When she left, he shouted another name through the open door before it slammed shut loudly. And so on. No one in the corridor could hear or understand him so a good-natured kid standing by the door his best to repeat the names loudly.

He called my name and I walked up to his window. He didn't ask to see my passport, or read my fingerprints, or do anything that would have required my physical presence. He asked for the document. I gave it to him, he looked at it, smiled, and said "A posto." It's fine.

That was it. I could go. It was for that I waited in line in a rainstorm. I could have dropped it off into a convenient slot, handed it to any number of guards out front, or simply faxed it. But no. I couldn't. I had to be inconvenienced to the max for no reason, for its own sake.

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