The expatriates who live in Rome fall into two camps: the ones who are eventually driven mad by the bureaucracy and inefficiency and the ones who learn to live with it. The first camp usually decamps after three years: that’s the three year rule. The rest tend to stay for decades. I am clearly in the second camp, having been here for 23 years. It did take some getting used to since I am not a patient person. And while it has gotten much better–you used to have to wait months or even years for a phone line and couldn’t run the toaster and hairdryer at the same time without blowing a fuse (that still happens where I live)–there are still frustrations. To wit: earlier in the week I went to the post office to mail a letter and pay some bills. I waited 30 minutes to mail the letter and another hour before my number came up to pay the bill (in fairness, the number I drew was 433 and the number being served when I arrived was 251 so it seems that they were moving fairly quickly but what is the deal with 182 people all deciding to pay their bills at the exact same time on a Tuesday morning in a tiny post office far from the centre of town and why wasn’t the place teeming?). When I finally got to the front of the line, my bank card was rejected because it wasn’t ‘legible’. So I had to spend another two hours at the bank today to sort that out. Now here was the really frustrating bit (apart from all the waiting). In the bank, as in the post office, you have to draw a number and wait till it comes up on a screen. There are different kinds of numbers for different kinds of transactions, e.g. G14 for a ‘consultancy’, A403 for ‘treasury’, and C896 for ‘cashier.’ First of all, I had no idea what any of that meant or how the different categories were different. I asked and was told that my little ‘problem’ (an illegible cash card) could only be sorted out by a consultancy. So I took a number–G14–and waited my turn. G10 was on the board so I was hopeful that I would not have to wait too long. Silly silly me. G10 continued to show on the board for the next hour. I finally asked if there were any consultants on duty today and was ushered right into the first office where some lady was literally doing her nails. Ack. OK so next time I’ll be a bit pushier. And the secret to dealing with bureaucracy and inefficiency in Rome? Always, ALWAYS have a book.