Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Patience. A necessary virtue in Italy.

While in Paris, Anna complained of the city's inefficiencies.  I paused in disbelief before exclaiming, "you're from Italy!"

She smiled knowingly.

Despite Parisian inefficiencies, Italy reigns King.

Say you're parched while wandering a big Italian city like Milan, but don't have anything on hand to quench your thirst. You walk into the nearest shop selling drinks. You're the only one there besides the attendant who takes notice of your entrance. Grabbing a bottle full of gloriously swishing liquid you can't wait to guzzle down, you walk to the counter... at which point the attendant turns away and begins occupying their time on something else, with a blatant disregard of your shriveling internal organs and you're eagerness to purchase your drink. There you stand, until the attendant feels enough time has passed to tick you off before whipping around, hurrying you to pay.

That was just one example. Another is as follows:

"You could have slept in you know," Anna chides me on our way to the metro at 7:30 in the morning.

"No way. I'm off to Lake Como today and want to spend as much time there as possible before meeting you after work."

The metro gets me to Central Station in record time. In the same speed I find an available ticket machine and purchase return tickets to Como, with five minutes to spare until the next train leaves.

I race up the three flights of stairs to the platforms. But looking on the display screens, I pause. The departure time I found online isn't on the schedule. I scan the screen for another possible train leading me to Como but am left confused. I hurry over to an information desk, but with a queue of two people, I turn away. I know how long that will take.

Instead I decide to try my luck. With just over a minute to spare I reach the platform stated online and validate my ticket in the stamp machine. Just before hopping on the train, I ask a few people if I'm headed in the right direction. In broken English they explain that the first leg of my train journey has been cancelled. The train I was about to board was going to an entirely different destination.

Back at the schedule display screen I take notice as the status of one train after another transitions from will depart at to delayed before inevitably changing to cancelled.

Feeling defeat, I descend the stairs until reaching the ticket office. The large room is packed with an impossibly large number of people. Heaving a sigh of resignation, I cram myself in. I need to know my options, or at least want my money back since I can no longer use a validated ticket.

There is a numbering system at least, I reason. I weave my way over to the crowded number dispensing machine and watch as two people repeatedly hit the touch screen. No ticket is deposited. They hit it harder, in different spots of the screen until the machine finally recognizes the request. Another person squeezes their way to the screen and begins the same process.

Forty minutes go by, after successfully retrieving a number, before I can walk up to the counter.

There's a train strike today, the agent tells me. And no, she can not refund my money she goes on to say. I will need to make my way to another station to see a monetary return, since the train company on strike doesn't operate at Central Station. Instead she stamps over my validated ticket and informs me I can use it again at another time.

Barring train strikes, that is. 

1 comment:

Patti said...

Aaarggh! I don't do very well in those situations so it's good to be forewarned because I would love to visit Italy. I think.