Absolutely nowhere near the Tuscan sun


This is the permit office. I posted this photo on Facebook earlier today, suggesting that "Guerra" should be changed to "Burocrazia." I stand by that suggestion.

A Comedy of Errors, Perugia Style, or,

Have a Laugh at My Expense It's Fine No Really

This overly long story begins, as so many do, in the past. Not the "once upon a time" past but two weeks ago when, while standing in the echo chamber of a church in Arcisate, Lombardia, imagining my ancestors' weddings there, I received a call from the permit office in Perugia. The parking permit I'd gotten in June (good for 5 years, it claimed in bold lettering) had to be replaced because a telecamera had been installed on my street. I was to email a certain address with my info, then go to the permit office as soon as possible after my return to Perugia. Va bene.

Email sent, to what effect I don't know, since, as expected, I never got a reply. Whatever. The telecamera went live in July; it's now September. I start worrying about tickets that might show up.

In the meantime, unrelated to the parking permit, I need to do a bonifico, a bank transfer, using a phone app. I've done it before, no problem. Except this time, near the end of the process, I'm asked for a mobile code. Mobile code? Che cos'è? I’ve got a PIN and an mPIN, an account number and an IBAN, but no mobile code. I plug in the various numbers associated with my account. Niente. On the fourth attempt my account is blocked. [insert profanity here]

I call the "customer service" line (quotes used correctly to indicate irony), which is completely automated and which denies me entry because guess what! My account is blocked. Ok then. I decide to call the number for non-clients, hoping to reach a human, and lo and behold it works! After I explain the situation, the man on the line says he can do nothing and I have to make an appointment at my branch to unblock my account. I explain that I'm out of town and he shunts me over to the automated system, at which point—well, you know what happens then.


Fortunately, the site for branch appointments doesn't require accessing my account, so I make an appointment for the Tuesday after my return.

Two weeks go by and I return to Perugia. On Monday, after checking the parking permit office's hours online (they're reachable by phone only one hour per day), I discover they're open on Monday and Wednesday afternoons. Great! I hop a bus to the office (it’s difficult to park near there), hopeful but not confident, which is very astute of me because of course the office is closed. The current hours, which bear little resemblance to those posted on the comune's website, state that people without appointments are seen only on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. Even though I know from experience that the delay for appointments is about a month, I decide to scope out the appointment calendar. I access it through the comune's site with my spiffy SPID ID, at which point the system crashes. I take that as a sign that I’m meant to join the long line of people without appointments the next morning.


On Tuesday morning, I check the bus schedule, which tells me there’s an A bus a few minutes after 8. Cool, I’ll be there when the office opens, which should leave me plenty of time to get to my 11:30 appointment at the bank. I leave my car on the street because reaching the off-street parking space I rent means passing under the malevolent eye of the telecamera, and I don’t want to risk a ticket. I can’t take the permit off the dashboard without risking a parking ticket, so I take a photo of it on my way to the bus stop.


Where I wait and wait. The schedule changed recently with the start of the school year and I checked the correct one, but . . . chissà? The buses sometimes run early, so I must have missed the 8am A bus, but there’s a D at 8:15, no problem. Except the D doesn’t come, so I take the 8:30 A bus. It’s a short ride; I’ll arrive about 5 minutes after the office opens. Except the driver forgets which route she’s driving and goes the wrong way on Via Pellini as we exit the tunnel, at which point we all shout, “This is an A!” and she glances up, annoyed, then proceeds, still going the wrong direction, to the nearest roundabout to turn around. Naturally we hit both of the very long red lights along the way, so when I get off the bus at the permit office, it’s 8:50.


I take a number—9, not bad— and wait an hour. Once called in, I explain the situation, show my document; the woman nods, all good. Then she asks for my permit, which, of course, is in my car preventing me from getting a parking ticket while I’m trying to get a new permit to avoid getting a parking ticket. The woman looks puzzled. “Isn’t your car here?” she says, and when I say no, she adds, “It’s not possible to give you the new permit because it’s a substitution and you can’t have two permits.” I’m tempted to say the permit is tagged to my license plate, so it’s not like I could hand it off to someone else, but I know it’s pointless.


I take the bus home, get my car, park in a pay lot not too far from the permit office (which obviously I should have done in the first place), and get back in line (#4 this time) clutching my permit. It’s a little after 10. I can still make my appointment at the bank, the gods willing.


Turns out I’m not really #4, though, because there’s a #14 before #1. Then the woman with #5 gets called in “just for a signature” and #3 (a man, and molto bello, btw) gets furious. He’s in an incredible hurry, he says; his 90-year-old mother is waiting for him. (I note that he has zero wrinkles or gray hairs, which may make his birth something of a miracle.) We commiserate. “Mine is just a substitution,” I explain, “two minutes max.” Yet here I am, waiting for the second time in one morning. A two-minute process in theory only, because in the end it takes 3 hours (if you count the travel time, which I certainly do).


The “just a signature” woman is in there for a good 15 minutes, while #3 gets increasingly angry. When an employee calls the next person (#2), #3 gives her a piece of his mind, which makes her defensive. She explains that #4 is disabled and had come in last Thursday, which is why they let her jump the line, and besides, there are only three employees there, doing the work of seven. Much shouting ensues.


After another half hour or so, I’m outside again with my new permit. It’s 11am, early enough for a quick coffee before my appointment at the bank. Shockingly, all goes well and my account is now sbloccato. Turns out "mobile code" is the new name for the mPIN, which doesn’t explain why plugging in the mPIN didn’t make my bonifico go through, but oh well.


I go back to the parking garage to get my car. I don’t have any coins or small bills and the change machine doesn’t work, so I try to pay using my (now unblocked) debit card. It is declared invalid. I try again. Invalid. I try a credit card—momentary success until I’m prompted to enter my PIN. “It’s a credit card, you [expletives redacted],” I mutter. After some momentary panic that the card will get eaten, I manage to retrieve it and go to find a human. Miraculously, there is one. He tries my debit card. Still invalid. We rescan my ticket and try again, and for whatever unknown reason, my debit card is now deemed valid! I go off to find my car. Operating in overly cautious mode, I had carefully made note of its location, but of course I can’t find it because I parked on the lower level and I think I AM on the lower level, but I’m on the upper level and—mamma mia!


I’m home now. I may never leave the house again—unless I have parking tickets to pay.



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