The Post office. Enter customer.
“Ultima?” (this is a question addressed to no-one in particular and everyone in general and means “who is last in the queue”)
Queue means a large group of people in no order whatsoever, so it is difficult to answer unless you have been intensely vigilante.
The answer does not come straight away, as no-one in particular and everyone in general glances around and then looks up or away or anywhere BUT at the person who posed this challenging question.
The question comes again. There is a subtle communal shrug with some vague head inclination this time and it seems that someone over on the far side of the room, at the greatest possible distance from the new entry is ‘the one’.
Meanwhile at the desk ( one of two but the second is blocado/no funczione due to computer exhaustion) some waving of papers looks hopeful, but just as it looks as though the hopeful customer is about to get what they have been waiting for, there is a rush and a small brisk elderly woman elbows her way to his side and starts an animated conversation which seemed to be an innocent request for information ( solo informazione) but which turns into a complex exchange which thoroughly distracts the man behind the aforementioned desk. We seem to be sliding backwards.
It is not easy to tell which of the two desks deals with stamps, (which is my mission for today, although it is so entertaining just being here that losing all hope of getting anything else done doesn’t bother me for once) but the gentleman at my side has been taking note and knows precisely who came in when. He tells me that it is the young woman over there, then himself then me! The young woman’s stiletto boots have bright pink soles which give off a lovely reflected rosy glow on the shiny flag floor.
A few people drift away with endearments, waist squeezing and bristly kisses. I hold my ground in a slightly feverish excitement as it could be my turn soon.
As I am now a little closer to the scene of business, I can peer over the desk into the office area.
On the other side Giovanni is alternately grinning and grimacing. For every transaction it seems as though he has to perform several printing actions and shufflings. He also hands bank notes across to his desk-mate who then seems to hand them back… Or perhaps it was a different batch?
The computer is on! great excitement…… and stirrings similar to a crush.
And now it is blocado di nuovo (blocked again) …. there are a few groans from around the room and everyone is complaining at once and jostling for position. Mr. Vigilant is on the ball and indicates to the next person that he should be next to the other desk.
When I smile and suggest that Sicily has a special system for the post office he gives me a kind look that implies both a sense of humour and a “we can do nothing” resignation. There were 4 people in front of me at the stamp desk ( although, somehow Giovanni managed to deal with a few others too) and after an hour it is my turn!!
5 stamps for the UK (which had to be extracted from one large envelope and carefully put into a folder before being torn from the big sheet and finally given to me), a couple of printed forms which got stuck in the printer and a small packet (weighed and stamped) later and I reel out into the sunshine through clouds of cigarette smoke. I think Giovanni has the patience of a Saint. He liked the idea.
I gather that in the main post office in the centre of town, the new multi-ticket system has made things MUCH worse. Everybody takes one of each, goes off for a coffee, comes back to find they have missed their turn and then tries to push their way back in again……
There is another way, but only for postcards (cartellini). The tobacaio or tobaccanist’s.
If they have got any.