Another day and another trip to the post office. Some of you may remember my post office woes from last year, which I wrote about here. This summer, I discovered the secret is to be 8 months pregnant and insist on head of the line privileges. It helps to have rivers of sweat pouring of your swollen, misshapen body. I've been able to discover a way to circumvent going to the post office to pay our gas and cell phone bill by paying it at the local Tabacchi store. They run the bill I receive through a little, reading machine, I hand over money, they give me a receipt. It's all very handy. I thought I was home free, never again to have to experience the horrors of the Italian post office.
And then I got a speeding ticket. Our freeways around Naples have an automated camera system, ensuring I dutifully followed the ridiculously low speed limit our first year and a half. And I got tired of driving 45mph on a freeway. And after months of driving a little faster than I should, and no ticket, I rested on my laurels. Then Nathan called me one day towards the end of November to say I'd gotten a ticket. (Tickets come to him at work because our car is registered through a military DMV system rather than the Italian version of the DMV.). We deduced, based on the day and the location of the camera, that it was one of the many days this summer I headed to the doctor - the camera caught me in August, the information from the camera was downloaded in October. We have some sort of rule that says we don't have to pay tickets from x number of months ago, but this ticket, we had to pay. Unfortunately for me, a new camera system was installed on a road I travel frequently and at perhaps a higher speed than I should. The speeding ticket is a flat rate, 170euro ticket (roughly $220) for going anywhere from 10-40km over the speed limit - that's 6-25mph. So go six miles over the limit, get caught by a camera and pay $220. Ouch! With the two to three times per week I was going to the base for doctor visits and the like in August, I told Nathan we might be in for a rough ride. Sure enough, the next day, another ticket came in the mail. I confidently headed down to the Tabacchi to pay my fines...and got turned away. The Tabacchi could not take the payment, only the post office. [Picture my face full of horror and silent screaming] Please don't make me go back there.
Before I could get a chance to schedule four spare hours or so, a friend told me of her recent post office visit with her young baby, and all the people let her go first. Because of the baby. I have one of those! So one day, Baby and I headed to the post office, me thinking I'd get in, some nice person would tell all the other people that I needed to go first because of the baby, I'd take the 60 seconds I use to hand over money, and we'd be outta there. I got into the post office through the still-very-weird door lock system, pressed my Number A button on the ticket machine, and realized I'd gotten number 108. The number board informed me that we were on Number 24. As I turned to face the disgruntled crowd, I realized there was not a chance someone was going to give up their spot.
At this point, a married couple came up so the lady could coo over the baby. She immediately felt her hands and proceeded to scold me because the baby's hands were cold. I have yet to leave my house without being scolded for taking my baby out into the rain/cold/wind, etc. Pick your poison because one of them makes me a horrible mother. Now the day was mildly cold, Nora was dressed warmly, had on a hat, had a blanket over her, and my stroller bassinet has a cover that almost completely encloses her. The baby is not going to freeze. I just told the woman that Nora is like me, always with the cold hands and feet. This was mainly just to pacify the woman. She immediately grabbed my hand to feel it, then proceeded to tell me that my hands were warm and the baby's hands were cold. Doesn't the baby have gloves, she asked. This discussion went on for far too long, especially since it was essentially all about me being a bad mother. Then we moved on to where do I live and why am I in Italy. It comes out that she doesn't have any grandchildren because of her three sons, only one is married, and he and his wife are very, very poor because he does not have a job. Her husband wants to know what my husband does. Her husband keeps whispering things in her for her to ask me, such as can my husband hire their son. I'm thinking I'm trapped in one of Dante's circles. And then Nora starts screaming. I pick her up, and now the husband starts to scold me because there is too much cigarette smoke in the air for the baby. I agree! Even though there is no smoking inside, every person in there probably smokes, so the smell just coming off their clothes is overpowering. I'm bouncing Nora on my shoulder, trying to tell the husband that it is too smoky, but I have to pay my bills, while still fending off the continued conversation with the wife that no, my husband can definitely not hire their son, when I feel wetness down my shoulder. Baby vomit. A lot of baby vomit that is running down both my front and back. I thought it was all over then, and I'd reached disaster point, the moment where the day completely breaks down, when instead, a nice postal worker called out to me, asking me why I was there. While wiping baby vomit off myself, trying to put my ponytail back up and tame the hair that was waving about wildly, and still soothe the screaming baby, whom I'd laid in her bassinet so quickly that she had one leg hanging over the side, I told the postal clerk that I just had two bills to pay...and she waved me to her! Yes, baby - you did good. A vomit covered shirt was a very small price to get out of that place. And as I left after my 60 second transaction, I realized that in the 40 minutes I'd been there, we'd gone from number 24 to 38. This progress was with five lanes open. I left my number 108 behind gleefully, but with great fear of speeding tickets that may be still to come.