Friday, June 15, 2012

Back to the Questura

So I haven't really talked about the latest trip to the Questura for my new permesso, but that's really because compared to the first visit over a year ago it's pretty anti-climactic. There just isn't enough of a story here in my opinion, but then I realized that just because it wasn't thrilling or chilling for me doesn't mean you don't want to know about it. So here goes...

The Questura is a huge monstrosity of a building. A giant block of red brick with whimsical round topped windows that lose their whimsy when you notice the sturdy black bars that guard each window from top to bottom. There is, in fact, only one way in and one way out; through the front door. It might be my own experiences there that color my impressions of the building, but I have heard others agree with me that the building is unhappy. Sadness and helplessness and  frustration seem to seep out of the brickwork and ooze out of the windows like fog. No one smiles there, not the visitors and not the people behind the probably bullet proof glass. The chairs rival those of bus, train and air terminals for discomfort. The entire room is made out of concrete. It's noisy and uncomfortable and manages somehow to be hot and cold at the same time. This is where I start my quest (ha) for a happy life here in Italy.

Instead of a form with over ten pages and a stack of supporting documents like the first time, I filled out a one page, one side only form that simply said that I want to stay here because my husband lives here and that he will take care of me. Copies of our passports and marriage documents attached along with the ubiquitous four passport sized photos, front face on a white background. At least this time they took all four photos instead of carefully cutting just one out of the middle of the strip of four identical photos.

This time there was no appointment-that-wasn't-really-an-appointment. I just showed up at 7:30 and stood in line for a number. I hoped it would be a number to do the actual work I was there for. If you remember from last time I had an appointment which turned out to not be an appointment and my first number was really only to get the real number some hours later. If that's confusing don't worry, it still baffles me a little bit. Luckily this time everything went the way I imagined it should. I still had to wait, but only through 12 numbers, not 112 like last time (twice).

There was a very lovely lady behind the glass. Bless her heart, she didn't look like she was having the worst day of her life yet and blamed me for it. She was helpful and polite and considerate and I left (after providing extra documents that weren't on the list of things to bring in, this is the government after all) 15 minutes later with instructions to come back in 30 days for my permesso.

Naturally there were a couple of things I would have to drop off the next day because even though I brought every piece of paper I could think of with me, I didn't think Italian enough to anticipate needing his residency card for Florence. When I got home I panicked briefly because I didn't think I had a receipt from them so that I could prove I had paperwork in progress. Leif pointed out that if I simply turned over the paper that she wrote down what to bring in the next day I would have seen my receipt, but hey, it had been a tough day. I had spent several days preparing myself for the worst and the adrenaline had nowhere to go. I'd gone in ready to do battle and sit for hours and well, just show them I could take whatever they dished out and more.

See what I mean? It's a very anti-climactic ending. Things went pretty much they way they were supposed to, except that no one expects things to go that way in an impersonal and foreign government office.

Of course, I don't actually have my permesso yet. There's one more visit to the Questura for that. I still have stuff I can obsess about. Like, how do I get the piece of paper that says I am here to pick up my permesso? You have no idea how mean those guys in uniforms at the doors are there. They're like the soup nazi from Seinfeld. You never know exactly what pisses them off, you only know that you have, in fact, pissed them off. "No permesso for you today!" How do I know when it's actually ready? What time do I show up? What else do I need to bring besides my lovely self?

I guess I'll just practice my deep breathing exercises and remember to relax. This is Italy, where things happen when they happen and not before, and where information is handed out a little bit at a time. If it wasn't happening to me I'm sure I would find it quaint and refreshing. Who knows, maybe someday I'll be Italian enough to take it all in stride.

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