Mr. Hubbard Goes To The Heart of Bureaucracy: Disincentives in Italy and Other Musings

(This is one of my more critical blogs of Italy. Although I love Italy, writing about how much I love it gets somewhat stale, and after a while, no one wants to hear about someone who only experiences good things. (NOTE: This situation, among many other things, is why Entourage quickly became unwatchable.) But more importantly, there are a lot of behaviors, requirements, and beliefs here that make you shrug your shoulders and say, “That’s Italy.” The residency permit application is one of those things.)

Something that’s unique about Italy is that students staying from outside the EU (European Union, for the layman) have to apply for a residency permit to cover the duration of their stay.  Essentially, if something bad happens to a student when abroad and the student is without a residency permit, he/she is in a lot more trouble than otherwise.  Otherwise, it’s not that important: there aren’t policemen asking you to see your residency permit at any hint of suspicious activity–this is Italy, not Arizona.  But still, beyond being a wise insurance policy, it’s the law, and so I applied for the permit.

REASONABLE SUGGESTION: But plenty of people study abroad in Italy, Lucas, so this process should be simple, straightforward, and rewarding to the people who bother to apply, right?

COUNTERPOINT #1: The entire application process costs–at a minimum–172 Euro.

COUNTERPOINT #2: If successful, the process will only provide me the residency permit at the end of November, protecting me for the remaining three weeks of my stay here.

COUNTERPOINT #3: The reward for bothering to successfully file an application: a trip to the regional police station, which, for me, lasted for 9 hours.

COUNTERPOINT #4: 5 of those 9 hours were spent in a waiting room, patiently sitting until my number was called.

This past Friday, I woke up at 6:50 and didn’t return until 4:00 PM.  From about 8:50 to 1:50 PM, I sat in a room filled with the type of people who, for one reason or another, had to spend all day at a police station.  NOT A SECURE ENVIRONMENT.  When I was actually “processed,” I’m 99% sure one of my forms wasn’t correct at all (Am I covered by health insurance here? Only one way to find out!), but since it was a Friday and the office closed at 2:00 PM, the clerk I met with was, understandably, just working for the weekend.  Luckily, he was dispassionate enough to give me the A-OK to get my fingerprints taken–which made me feel like I was in only every CBS drama ever made.

Italy: Where Ambivalence Toward the Law Happens.

(The fingerprint machine is awesome, though: I bet every station with one has some HIGH-LARIOUS Christmas party stories that revolve around scanning naked butt cheeks into the computer database.)

If all goes well, I’ll be able to pick up my permit at the police station at the end of November.  Which I may or may not do.  I think I’ll have spent so much on the necessary therapy after this first visit that no one would want to mug me anyway.

Other Random Musings about Italy:

Ugly Gondoliers–In America, a lot of times we discuss a short boy chasing his impossible dream of becoming a basketball star, or the girl from the troubled family becoming the first to go to college and attaining a law degree.  I think the equivalent in Venice is the ugly boy who has always wanted to become a gondolier.  Because really, the only requirement for a gondolier is attractiveness.  You don’t have to be a good paddler (you’re not racing the other gondolas), or even be that comfortable around the water.  All you have to do is stand there, speak Italian, wear a striped shirt, and look good for tourists.

I want to see a Lifetime movie about the first boy with cleft palate to become a gondolier.

Skills of People who are Street Performers–It seems like the street performers in Venice have skill sets that are in no way related to what they are actually performing.  I’m pretty sure they just liked the idea of becoming a performer before developing a discernible talent, and now they’re stuck punching the clock as a laser pointer demonstrator and salesman without any sales ability whatsoever.  Shoot for the stars, and if you miss, you’ll still end up next to a guy selling bootlegged leather products to tourists.

The other day, I swear I saw a drummer who was both tone-deaf and, well, rhythmically deficient.  And really, street drumming?  I guess nothing evokes the emotions of romance and nostalgia like hearing a dude in Crocs banging on a self-constructed drumkit all day.

Two Cent Pieces–The Euro, besides having colorful bills of different shapes and 1- and 2-Euro coins, also utilizes both 1- and 2-cent pieces.  Now, the penny is obviously the most useless piece of American currency (hence the take-a-penny-leave-a-penny phenomenon, and penny collecting being a staple behavior of the Crazy Aunt), but I can’t decide whether the 2-cent coin is the greatest or worst thing I’ve ever heard.  I guess it cuts down on the number of 1-cent coins in operation, but with the extra design and coloring needed to make it unique, is it really worth it?  You can’t use these coins in vending machines, let alone any sort of important transaction, but 1-, 2-, and 5-cent Euro coins count for 80% of all coins minted in the Eurozone (according to Wikipedia), which is ridiculously inefficient.  Everything should cost an even 5 or 10 cents, and the remaining useless coins in circulation should be used solely as projectiles against street performers.

I probably won’t be blogging next week as I’m spending my fall break in Spain.  “Spain: It’s Italy, But With Pickpockets!”


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