Signorina in Sheffield #4 – Of bureaucracy and other tragedies

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I don’t know if in the UK is common, but one of the most popular Italian travelling games is “the market game”.

One person says that he went to the market and bought something. The second person buys the same thing and something more.

The third person lists the first two items and adds one and so on…

Then you grow up and you apply it to real life.

I woke up this morning after a four-hour sleep and I am running a temperature of 39.

I am running a temperature of 39 and I am leaving in two days for New York City.

I am running a temperature of 39, I am leaving in two days for New York City and my passport needs an extra stamp in order to leave.

I am running a temperature of 39, I am leaving in two days for New York City, my passport needs an extra stamp in order to leave and therefore I have to go all the way to Manchester to get it.

I thought I had it all: I had booked my flight; made sure the luggage was ok; filled the Esta Visa Waiver form on line; got rid of super dangerous material such as contact lens liquid and toothpaste; officially signed that I was never a Communist in my life (they still ask – I guess they want to hold on to all those sci-fi movies from the ‘50s) and gave them every single address I will be staying at during my trip.

I was ready to go. Then I remembered that in Italy we have an extra tax for the passport, something we have to pay every year in order to make it valid.

We have a super-valid passport this way, in your face, Britons! And of course, I had not paid it over the last year.

If I were in Italy, I would have simply gone to a tabaccheria to buy the stamp to glue to the passport.

But I am in England and I leave in two days, where can I find it?

So it’s Monday morning and instead of going to lesson I am going to the Italian consulate in Manchester while shaking in fever.

I arrive at Piccadilly station and run at 111 Piccadilly Square, the address of the consulate according to google.

It is a consulate, but a big sign and a big red and white flag recite: Polish Consulate.

I try to check out the other buildings in the square but nothing; there are at least 4 pizzerias though, which giving the situation I found quite annoying.

Eventually I ask for information at a conference hall reception.

They tell me the consulate is two blocks away, on the corner with Portland Street. I run there. It’s the Portuguese consulate.

I ask to the Portuguese receptionist and he sends me in the direction I came from, in front of the Polish Consulate.

I go back to the first address. In front of the building there is the most stereotypical English pub I have ever seen. Hardly the Italian consulate.

Determined not to cry over bureaucracy, I step into the Polish building.

Maybe I’m still on time to get a Polish passport, I think.

In a world where Sarah Palin ran for vice President, anything is possible.

I enter the door under the big “Polish Consulate” sign and I look at the list of the floors.

Actually, on the 10th floor, near a Tesco Express accountant office, here it is: il Consolato Italiano! Finalmente!

I go to the reception and ask to go upstairs.

The doorman hands me over a card on which I have to write my name.

No documents, no signature. Just my name. I could be Bin Laden complaining for a corked Barbera and no one would ever notice.

Anyway, I make my way to the 10th floor and ask for the stamp.

The employ hardly speaks any Italian: he is from Rome.

Half an hour and a long explanation later, I am free to run for the station cash machine – because they don’t accept credit card… but I can pay my tax and get my stamp!

They even homage me with a free copy of the Italian Constitution.

And so with my stamp, my Visa, my electronic passport, my credit card checking and my declaration forms I am ready for the land of freedom.

Unless someone at the customs think I have swine flu, of course…

By Marta Musso

Click on the picture to read the article on http://www.forgetoday.com

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