When I returned early this afternoon to the Casa Santa Maria from a morning of classes at the Pontifical Gregorian University, I was both surprised and frustrated to find a notice in my mailbox that a package was supposedly being held for me (yes, I might to phrase it that way) at the nearest Italian post office (about ten minutes away on foot). I was surprised because I was not expecting a package from anyone (unless its one that was sent before Christmas and has yet to arrive) and frustrated because it meant I would effectively lose at least an hour and a half of my life simply waiting at the post office (as I described on another occasion).
Most Americans (or at least most of my family and friends) tend to think that living in Rome is a dream come true, a life filled with wonder and beauty and deliciousness at every turn. Let me assure you it is not. Living in Rome might be compared with experiencing one frustration after another while never receiving an adequate explanation for what seems to be great incompetence all around. Visiting Rome is great; living in Rome is another matter altogether.
As before, I left the Casa with a book expecting to wait for at least another 70 minutes before finally being summoned to the counter. Much to my surprise - and great delight - my number was called after only ten minutes of waiting. After showing my number, the notice for my package, and my identity card to the clerk, she disappeared into the back room to collect whatever it was that I came to collect. As I waited, I began to think that coming just before lunchtime might be a bad idea. Soon my delight would be crushed.
Fifteen minutes later she returned to the counter and told me package was not at the post office. When I asked her why and where it was, she pointed out the official notification I received today was written on Saturday. It was very likely, she said, that my package was still at the airport and might arrive at the post office perhaps tomorrow or the next day, or maybe even Saturday. Curiously, even though a tracking number - or, at least, a sorting number - has been assigned to the package, the clerk could not use it to find out where the package is. Welcome to Italian efficiency.
When I expressed my frustration at the stupidity of the entire situation, she simply said, "I don't know what to say," and sent me on my way to return again to waste more of my life waiting on Italian bureaucracy.
I cannot help but wonder just how much of my life will be wasted in the attempt to collect this package. Whatever is in this mysterious and unexpected package, it better be good.
Most days in Rome prove the truth of Monsignor Georg Ratzinger's assertion that life "can't be all peace, joy, and pancakes" (yes, the Pope-emeritus' brother said that; it's a great line).
Now I simply want to chase away my frustration with a long walk, but it looks like it might pour down rain at any moment and walking in the rain in Rome is a terrible idea as the rain makes the city dirtier than before. Hello, Monday. I may go back to bed.