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At least the sun was shining

February 23, 2019

It began with a little green envelope in the post box, an envelope to strike fear in the hearts of law-abiding citizens and spasm in other organs of those less so: registered mail.  It could be anything from a camera trap speeding ticket to a denuncio from someone you’ve never met for doing something you couldn’t possibly have done.  Dealing with the former is enough to induce a nervous tick, but the latter could leave one fighting in court for years, paying lawyers and, inexplicably, witnesses to counter the bespoke witnesses for the plaintiff.

I called our landlord to ask if I should collect the registered item from the post office or pretend I never saw the notice.  This would be common Italian protocol as the post is notoriously “unreliable.” Packages are stolen by postal employees and units of daily mail are simply abandoned, items such as our electric bill.  But that is a story for another day.  I had seen a similar envelope in our shared box the week before, so there was a chance it was something innocuous from the city and our landlord had received one as well.  No, his was a failure to pay a parking garage fee.  No, he could not collect our registered mail. It must be the one to whom it is addressed.  Wait, that’s not my question.  I could go get it, but should I?  Dear landlord is above-board enough, despite years of having us on a black contract thus avoiding a pile of taxes on the rent, to not understand what I was asking.  Ok, thank you.  Yes, I’ll let you know how it goes.

It was, in fact, a traffic ticket… from over a year and a half ago.  I had encroached the line at a red light in front of a camera.  I may very well have done and with neither ability nor hope of fighting it, we paid the fine on the spot to the same BancoPosta teller who signed off on the registered letter.  But there was also a form to be filled out and returned.  Fair enough, as the auto registration is in the man’s name but the calendar confirms I was the infractor.  Interesting side note: the Italian system removes points from a driver’s license, whereas the US system adds them.  If this were the 1st World where governing bodies converse with one another (my English friend here registers his car at their address in Monaco because they don’t even answer the phone when Italy calls), could I drive like a maniac in the US then have Italy take those points off for whatever they eventually catch me at?  I digress.  This required form could be returned by 1. Fax; really? who has a fax machine?  2. Post; we’ve had this discussion or 3. in person to the address on the form in the town of infraction, Sarzana.

Googling up Sarzana municipal police department and subset office receiving such forms, they are open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday from 9:00-12:00 and 15:00-16:30.  At the beginning of a day of errands, the man and I went over to Sarzana at 10:30.  I took the form to the police station.  Oh no, not here, that office is across the park under the portico.  In the office under the portico, I compared the name on the form with the label on the counter window.  Yes.  No, not this window.  Across the room.  But everyone is being pleasant and it was a nice sunny walk around town.  “I need a copy of your driver’s license, front and back.  But I can’t do it here.  Go to the corner shop behind the police station.” <twitch> Fine, the photocopier in a government office being on the fritz is par for the course, if indeed they could find it at all.  The office was a veritable archeological site of sliding piles of files, toppling stacks of notebooks, unopened office supplies, and of course reams of forms. 

The lady in the corner shop neatly made me a copy of both my US license and the Italian translation I carry, front and back, on one side of one sheet.  Deeply buried in the fine print of the notice and form was indication that such a copy would be required, but having not noticed it, I shudder to think what would have happened had I returned it in any other fashion.  A friend ended up with a €1000 fine for just such an occurrence.  As I recall, just under seven years prior, the by-then ex-wife had committed an infraction in the friend’s car.  The fine was paid, but the form went unfiled.  Maybe she saw the writing on the wall and took the opportunity to keep those points on her license.  I don’t know,  but by the skin of their teeth before the statute of limitations would have expired, they got him.  So, just as well that I drove over the hill, found a rare parking space on the road, and braved the bureaucracy face to face.

I walked back around the police station, through the park, and into the office under the portico behind the foreboding wall of mirrored glass.  The lady took the copy of my license, put a sticker on it with blanks which she filled in by hand, said we were done, handed me a crookedly restapled stack of papers, including “a copy of the form for your records.  Keep them for five years.  Good day.”


I smiled and said “Thank you,” not “You couldn’t have used the machine to copy my license while you were already using it to make this copy of the form?!”  I am freaking full of grace, see previous post.

And people wonder why I’m a hermit.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Jess permalink
    February 25, 2019 12:51

    That sounds terrible Molly! What an ordeal. Congratulations on your perseverance, poise, and on having significant bravery enough to drive in Italy in the first place.

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