Posted by: 4initalia | January 12, 2009


When we recieved our Codice Fiscale, (it’s like a social security number) we were told that in Italy we have a well-respected right to the privacy of our personal information. “This is absolutely private. No one can see this unless you let them.” Okeeeey, but we have had to provide personal information for the most innocuous transactions. Bus pass? The clerk scoured my passport for my birth date. Because on October 20th, the bus driver is going to give me a cake, just before my stop at Viale Gobbeti? Maybe not. To buy cell phones, you need a passport, codice fiscale. Everyone wants our address. It seems that there is a right to my privacy, but it’s not a right that belongs to me. At least Dick Cheney is open about it, shoots you in the face and then laughs while he reads your email. Hi, Dick!!

Today we tried to open a bank account. First we tried to open a bank. It’s not easy – the door is a pnuematic tube set into the wall, about the size of the plastic thing I put my deposit in at the credit union.
There’s a button on the outside, and a sign that says “disoirdositiri fantfiodefi.” Not helpful. So we pushed something, nothing happened. The bank is small, surely they know that we can’t get in? A woman came out and the door sucked open with a whoosh. Andy was afraid to get in, afraid that he would be stuck in the tube like marzipan stuck in a pastry bag.

So we did some more button pushing, some more waiting. Couldn’t anyone see from inside the bank that we couldn’t get in? A few more pushes, and an amused man came out of the bank and showed us what to do. The door opened, and Andy was sucked inside, like a Star Trek episode gone awry. I pushed the button, the door beckoned – what the hey.

The bank was very small – a counter, and two tellers. A door marked “Directore” firmly shut. The two tellers were very slim, in that Italian way that lets you know that they were wearing exquisite shoes. We sat down at the two chairs. Giovanna had given us the card of someone at the bank, Fillipo, so I asked to see him. But while we were talking, Filippo had gone outside with the guy who let us into the bank. They were speaking with great animation about the door’s key pad. I could see that because I could see everything that happened outside the bank from inside the bank. And there wasn’t any inside the bank to look at, so there you are.

The other teller, Teller Numero Due, said Filippo would be back soon. Or that’s what I thought he said, he said it in very rapid Italian, with vowels that were are clipped and thin as he was. Then he waited on other customers. Warmly, with rich fat vowels that puffed and billowed across the counter like clouds of affection, while we waited for Fillipo. Or something.

Hovering over Fillipo’s desk, just inches from Fillipo’s face, and in full view of the entire bank and Teller Numero Due, was a large screen that showed the security camera’s view of the front door. Or you could just look outside; outside and inside were about 4 feet apart, separated by clear glass walls. No wonder they couldn’t see us.

We waited. Fillippo came back in, ignored us, and waited on another customer who had come in after we did. When he finished with the customer, he disappeared without a word. Is he on break? Does he know we’re here to see him, is he the right person? The other teller ignored us. We ignored each other. More people came in. Teller Numero Due loved each one of them, answered their questions, organized their digital photos, made reservations for their summer vacations, gave them tea and cookies with personalized frosting. Us, nothing. Fillippo had skipped town, changed identities, and we were left to watch Teller Due bond with all of Modena.

Finally, Fillippo came back. He called us by name, said that Giovanna had called about us and that he was already working on opening our account. He asked for some documents (respecting his right to our privacy), and said that he’d draw up the papers and call us when they were done so we could come back and sign them. So all was forgiven. Except for the part about the door, and all of the ignoring, and the fact that if he knew we were there to see him, he could have tossed a look, maybe a verb or two, in our direction, so we knew what was going on. Or maybe it was about us not knowing. Sometimes glass walls are harder to see through than brick ones.

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