Monday, November 16, 2009

the little matter of bureaucracy 12/05/09

Two places I hope I don't have much to do with in the future: the health centre and the comune, or town council, centre of all civic parts of an Italian's life and dreaded hell of bureaucracy.

I need the libretto sanitario to get medical treatment here. I am not sure if this is a little book I get given, or if it means my name will simply be registered on the system: it appears there is a new version just out, and no one is clear about it. This looks hopeful…

We queue up at the appropriate door in the medical centre only to be told it's just closing and we'll have to come the next day. So the next day we are there bright and early and we get sent from one office to the next. There is an ancient man smoking cigarettes, which he holds under the table every time the door opens (as if no one can smell it!), as technically you are not supposed to smoke in public buildings in Italy, least of all the health centre. In Sicily though, this law is largely ignored. So I choke on the fumes and wait while he painstakingly enters my details into the system, including my codice fiscale, equivalent to the National Security number but with even more big brother powers involved over here. It turns out there is some confusion because it comes up on the screen that I had an old libretto sanitario issued in Arezzo when I lived there (I had explained this when we got there – I had thought it would have been a simple matter of transferring details … as if ). Anyway, I'm going to have to bring it in before can be issued with another one. What we would have done if I hadn't found it, I don't know. Luckily I have it in the house.

So we come back with it the next day, with my codice fiscale on it and the doctor's name in Arezzo and everything. We're back in the office with the ancient smoker and it is as if our mere presence disturbs him. Not a hint of courtesy or greetings, he enters the details again and prints off something we are to take to the next office. But not today, that office will only be open for such things the next day. Complete lack of coordination in this place.

So we are back the next day at the office queuing up as usual with the others who are being pushed around from one office to the next. The locals have a surprisingly resigned attitude to this. For all their explosiveness in face-to-face contact, they are very subdued when dealing with the slow wheels of state institutions. Years of being fregato (cheated), says my husband. Everyone knows there is no point in questioning the malfunctioning state, in might even get you in trouble. The people around us shrug and smile as if to say, ‘What can you do?’ finding solace in solidarity.

The next clerk is so busy texting on his mobile and frowning and shouting at his colleagues that he has hardly time to deal with me. Of course there is a problem with my card. ‘No,’ he says, ‘no, these details aren't right, you are not coming up on my screen.’ Oh man, I just want to come up on the screen and get out of this terrible place. He checks all the details slowly and then arrives at the problem. The chainsmoker has entered the wrong date of birth for me. So we are back at square one? I ask fearfully. Yes, basically, but he has a glimmer of sympathy and says he will sort it out. But I still have to come back the next day for the print out which will tide me over until the real card comes in the post (he is unable to give me a more specific estimate – anything from 6 weeks to 6 months, he says!).

We go to the comune to get my residency sorted out. For contractual matters and the way our business will be set up it will just be easier if I get registered as being resident here. So again we are passed from one office to the next and then have to fill out a document where I state that I am actually resident here (a self-declaration), and then we're supposed to wait at home for the next few days while a police man comes by to check if I live there! In the next few days sure enough a guy comes along and encounters my suocero who assures him I live at the address in question. With this important proof we can now go back to the comune and get my residence registered in the system. Once there, though, they tell us we now need a bolletto, a stamp from the tabaccaio, basically a tax to get his special status of residency. So my husband goes off to get the stamps and I start the boredom of filling out the numerous forms with the usual personal details, including qualifications and profession (?)

When we eventually have all the details, the unhelpful tired, bored and unsmiling clerks assure me that I am now resident – disappointingly, after all that effort I don’t even get a card to prove it. I am merely free now to declare myself as resident wherever I wish, at my Sicilian address ...

We then go to investigate the possibility of me becoming an Italian citizen. But no one in the appropriate office really knows. They do know it involves a lot of form filling, and convalidation and translation of all my qualifications and ID documents. It would all take forever. It would be much better for your husband to seek Irish citizenship anyway, they say, who in their right mind would want Italian citizenship? There is no good in it!


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