Wednesday, June 17, 2009

At The Post Office

I used to have an idea that a Post Office was where you went to buy a stamp, post a letter, perhaps use the banking services, that kind of thing. I used to also think that sometimes there was a queue, especially if you want at lunchtime. That was back in the UK. How I look back on that 20 minute queue with nostalgia. This is my guide to going to the Italian Post Office related to my experiences:

  1. Take a minimum of a week off work, a bottle of water, a book and probably some lunch and prepare to leave your home at around 7am to join the queue outside that has already formed. These people know each other well being hardened post office users, and whilst you wait patiently at the back, they will allow friends, relatives and anyone who starts chatting to them to join the vague line at the closed door.

  2. When the doors open prepare to make a run for the ticket machine and rather than waste time reading which of the three different tickets you need, just take one of each. Whatever the information says, you will be waiting in the wrong ticket line and have to start over again when you finally reach the counter (in around two days) and be told curtly that even though C tickets are indeed for whatever product you want, your request is specialised and that means you need a B ticket.

  3. If you have a B ticket, obviously you should have got an A ticket.

  4. If you have an A ticket, then you should have come on Wednesday.

  5. When your number is called, you have approximately 2 seconds to get to the counter before the next number is called. This is non negotiable and does not vary according to the size of the post office and distance to cashier.

  6. Whilst you are being served, which usually consists of being told that what you need is out of stock, you will be constantly interrupted with other customers asking for various forms. There are places for forms to be stocked but these were possibly last replenished in the days when Berlusconi was a mere pup with a full head of hair. At this point your surly cashier will assume a helpful smile and disappear from his/her desk to go and find said form which may take ten minutes and involve at least three other members of staff who were also busy serving but have now all stopped.

  7. The numbers in the queue change at approximately one every ten minutes. However if you decide to gamble on going to get a coffee to pass the time, the space/time continuum rules means the numbers will advance at the required rate to ensure that you miss your turn by 30 seconds whether you are gone for 5 minutes or 5 hours.
  8. If you decide to abandon your wait which some do after two hours, and you try to pass your unused ticket to a person who looks deserving with a number way behind yours, you will cause discomfort, awkwardness and it will be refused if this person is Italian.

All in all, I would recommend that everyone try the post office at least once during their time here but on a day when you are bored, its raining, and you do not actually need any of its services. It is an experience, you will get chatting to all kinds of people, and its a real lesson in the Italian way of life. Maybe back in the UK we are far too uptight about these things, and I am learning slowly to accommodate these kind of challenges rather than get frustrated by them, but just once it would be nice to able to send a parcel home without having my friends forgetting who I am by the time I return.


  1. You seem to really observe all things Italian!
    Come and join the Italy Magazine Communty. You may advice and share opinions with other lovers of Italy!

  2. Complimenti! Beautifully written insights to Italy...