status viatoris – being ‘on the way’/being in a state of pilgrimage
There are certain things that any foreigner moving to Italy comes prepared for.
First are the obvious, and undoubtedly most hotly-anticipated: tasty food, extremely quaffable wine, endless degrees and variations on a theme of coffee, a rich history of music and the arts, and vibrant and diverse countryside.
Then come those that many ex-pats secretly hope for: a strong sense of community, warmth and welcome, simplicity, kindness and a zest for life.
Trailing way behind are the distastefully inevitable: unpredictable driving, a frustrating lack of order, and that most dreaded of old chestnuts… bureaucracy.
Bureaucracy is, of course, a necessary evil of an evermore chaotic and overpopulated modern world; but in Italy especially, the ranks of box-ticking bureaucrats have grown to wield a frankly Orwellian power.
The slightest change in one’s circumstances, or the need to complete an administrative task of any nature can eat away hour after indescribable hour: visiting Office A to beg for Form B, carting Form B to Office C to purchase Official Stamp D, taking the newly stamped Form B to Office E and waiting for an hour, only to be told that it is Office F you should have been sitting in, and arriving at Office F to be told that they need a signature from Bureaucrat G before they will even consider ticking whatever box needs to be ticked, oh! and have you brought a doctor’s note with that?
Gritted teeth and a vague semblance of a philosophical outlook are the only tools at most people’s disposition to get them through often farcical official procedure, but sometimes even those tools are simply not man enough for the job.
A situation I now find myself only too closely acquainted with, much to my frustration and sorrow.
I managed somehow to keep my calm when neighbours, through suspicious parsimony (despite my already voiced intention to shoulder the bulk of the costs), scuppered perfectly justified plans for a new roof two years ago – forcing me to spend money on a temporary solution that did nothing to insulate my apartment, nor to stop water gushing down newly plastered walls into electrical sockets and pouring onto my bedroom furniture every time the rain stepped it up a notch.
But things are different now.
I am expecting a baby. A baby that deserves to start life in a warm house, without the ever-present risk of rain dripping onto its button nose as it catches forty winks.
So when everyone returned from their holidays at the beginning of September, I began my new roof offensive – quotes all round, neighbours coaxed into making a decision, chosen quote delivered to the geometra, and the initial administrative fee paid.
It would take 20 days to get the quote approved by the powers that be, leaving work to begin around the second week of October – hopefully before the onset of autumnal precipitation.
But when October came without the smallest rattle of scaffolding, a visit to the geometra became necessary; at which point we were informed that sometime between submitting the quote and getting it approved, a brand new law had been plucked from the skies requiring the intervention of yet another office of bureaucrats (who would also have to be paid large sums of money, certo…).
Weeks passed with no news, so the geometra was contacted again. Was there really no way this new office could give an indication of how long we would be expected to wait for their diamond-incrusted tick? Might it be a week? Twenty days? A month? Six months? I am expecting a baby in January, a baby that deserves to be warm and raindrop-free. I need to come back to Italy to be with my husband before I am too pregnant to travel, but we have to know what is likely to happen with the roof on order to decide how to proceed. Help.
And then the ridiculous, almost unbelievable truth began to emerge:
Someone, somewhere, at some point along the line (and nobody seems to know more than that) decided that the new roof requires the builder to knock the top of our walls off and build them up again with reinforced concrete.
Further cost. Nature of the beast. Oh well.
But…. and this is the big butt…. the bureaucrat previously dealing with all matters of a reinforced concrete nature in the provincial administrative offices has recently retired, and his replacement is point blank refusing to take on the responsibility of signing off on works of a reinforced concrete nature.
Thus ensuring that AN ENTIRE PROVINCE has ground to a halt in all construction/renovation matters pertaining to reinforced concrete, leaving us high, dry and without a clue where next to turn.
Our paperwork has been signed off by a role call of various geometra and engineers, but if we got to work without this one last tick, the hounds of officialdom would be snapping at our heels before the first tile was laid – fining the owners, the builders and the geometra, before whisking us all off to court.
Despite the fact that it is they who have put us in this position.
This is Status Viatoris, who would have liked to rebut a recent sarcastic enquiry as to whether there was no bureaucracy in the UK, with a cold and damning stare.