La Patente

OK, here it is. You’ve been hounding me to put this story on my blog. Of course, many of you already know the story but I’m hoping to get some feedback from new readers. So if you’re a new reader, or if you’re just old and have forgotten you read it before, please let me know your thoughts. Also I know many of you wouldn’t mind re-reading it because it is a pretty amazing story.

This is a true story. Even though I have lived in Italy for 14 years, I am decidedly not a real Italian, so I don’t have the Italian penchant for extreme exaggeration. Nothing about the story is exaggerated. It really happened just the way I’ve written it, including the time-line! I am posting it now because on a recent trip to the USA, I accompanied my neice to the Registry of Motor Vehicles to take the written test for her driving license. We were in and out of the Registry within 20 minutes. She had passed the test and had an appointment for a week later to take the driving test (which she also passed). The entire thing cost her $35, which included the eye test.

This story was written in stages between 2003 and 2006. I have made some minor changes, mostly to correct typos.

 La Patente (The License)

Burocrazia Intensa (B.I.) (Intense Bureaucracy)

Permesso di Soggiorno (PdiS) (Basically, permission to stay in the country)

La Patente di Guida   (Driving License)

ACI    (Automobile Club in Italy)

Motorizzazione (Registry of Motor Vehicles)                     

Pistoia  (The Capital City of our Province)

Magari! (If only it were true!!).

Questura  (Police Station)

EURO (Currency used in Italy = about $1.10)

Marca da Bollo (Official stamp – basically tax stamp)

Tabacchi  (Smoke Shop where one obtains Marca da Bollo)

ASLA (or USLA)  (Public Health Department)

LLEENTAAMENTEE (LENTAMENTE) (SSLLOOOOWWWWLY (SLOWLY)

Residenza (Residency)

Lucca  (Another city in Tuscany)

Boh     (Roughly, “I have no idea” or “who knows?”)

Una clandestina  (An illegal female immigrant)

Madre Mia!    (Mother of God!)

Scaduto          (Out of Date, Expired)

Molto gentile (Very kind, courteous)

Massachusetts (A state in U.S.A.)

Oh Dio! (The Man Himself!)

Che disastro!  (What a disaster!)

Kph    (Kilometres per hour)

Cretino or Stronzo    (Roughly, an Asshole)

Mi Scusa (Excuse me)

Ragazzi (Boys)

Well, I thought you’d all like to hear the latest saga of Wilson vs the Italian Bureaucracy ((Burocrazia Intensa (B.I.)) Even though it’s all very frustrating, there’s a part of me that enjoys it because I do dearly love a challenge and it provides great material for my amusing little stories.

After the fiasco of the expired Permesso di Soggiorno, holding up my ability to buy a car for 6 months, I thought that I had finally come to the last hurdle of B.I. i.e.: La Patente di Guida.  Since I have residency here in Italy, the law requires that I obtain an Italian driving license. I, in fact, have applied for such a document a number of times. But have been thwarted at every turn by the B.I. This latest quest began last June but was held up for the same reason as the hold up on buying my new car. My Permesso di Soggiorno had expired. I mistakenly thought that having residency was sufficient and that I didn’t need to update the Permesso di Soggiorno. I have finally learned that it must be updated every two years and the process takes about 6 months, so you have to start the paperwork every year and a half. It is a total pain in the butt requiring at least three full days of running around to get everything in order. The reason it takes so long is that most of the agencies you have to deal with have only morning hours and are not necessarily open every morning, and the requirements change every year so it’s not like you can just copy and paste from the previous one…

May 2003

A Little Background:

Just after receiving my residency here, I immediately went to ACI, the Italian quasi-governmental agency that facilitates the process of getting licenses and license plates. As facilitators, they fail miserably! But, I’m told that it’s worse when you try to go directly to the Motorizzazione in Pistoia.  Anyway, after showing them my numerous military licenses issued in Germany, Italy and Belgium, along with an International European License, as well as my Massachusetts license, I handed them about 120 euro and they told me to come back in a week to have my eyes examined. Being ancient as I am, I had to take an eye test for the license. I thought this was reasonable, so I returned in a week, gave the doctor 20 Euro, and was told that I should have my license in 20 days!!! Thinking 20 days was a long time, I was appalled! Magari! After 3 weeks I returned only to be told that it wasn’t ready, and that I had to sign another piece of paper because I had made a mistake on one of the documents. So I did this and was told to come back in a week. Suffice to say, I reported there every week for the rest of June and July and when August came, I asked if the Motorizzazione closed for vacation like the rest of the country for the month of August. To my amazement, the girl said with a straight face, “No, they don’t close, but they’re a little slow”. This after more than three months of waiting!!!! Each time I went there, I asked if there was something wrong or if I needed to do something else. They always responded that there was only one Engineer who handled these things and that he was busy, so I should just wait. So, I decided to not go to ACI for the month of August but to return in September when they presumably would not be so slow!!!

The first week of September found me once again in line at ACI. Still no license. Same story “One Engineer-try again next week”. I finally told them that I was tired of the process, I didn’t care how many Engineers they had, and that if they didn’t have my license by the next week, I wanted my documents and money back! This got their attention! The girl looked at me with an expression that said, “I must have misunderstood you, no one ever gets money back”. So, I repeated it in my poor Italian to her co-worker and her supervisor. They understood, and said they would go to Pistoia and get the documents back, but it was impossible to give the money back. I just said I’d return the next week for either the license or the money. I actually waited two weeks before returning. Once again after waiting in line, I was told that they had retrieved my documents from the one Engineer but could not give me an Italian license. This was not a great surprise to me. I had figured it out months before, so I said that was fine, just return my money. Again, the girl looked like I was from Mars! And she looked like she hadn’t heard me say this two weeks before! I repeated my demand and added that if they didn’t give me my money back I was going to the Questura to file a complaint. Then two other co-workers plus the supervisor got involved. By this time tempers were a bit frayed. I stood with my arms crossed while 5 or 6 other people waited in line behind me, and said I was not moving until I had my money.  Well, the bottom line is, to the amazement of all, the girl opened her cash draw and counted out my  120 euro and basically slammed it down in front of me. I thanked her, said “have a good day” and left. I had the distinct feeling that even though I had not heard anything, those people in line in back of me were applauding!!!! Certainly my Italian friends thought it was great. They all hate ACI!!!

So….this all happened in September or October of 2003. Then I went in November to the States as you will recall. While in the States, I was able to obtain Florida license plates for my car, making it legal to drive in Europe as a tourist. So, this was quasi-legal. The only problem was that I am not a tourist. With Residency, one must obtain Italian licenses and plates. But I was just too worn out by ACI to return and start the process all over again. So…for 5 or 6 months I was more or less content to remain quasi-legal. Then, my 1991 Saab started breaking down on a more or less regular basis. AND, someone broke all the locks on the doors as well as the trunk! Just to be mean. They also stole my nice little cart that I used to haul stuff up the hill, but nothing else. So, I decided that since this was the second time that someone had vandalized my car, it was time to ditch the Florida tags and go straight! I decided to try again to get a license and to buy a new car.

June 2004

After talking to some friends, I was persuaded to go to the Lucca Motorizzazione instead of Pistoia or ACI because someone knew someone, and she would help me through the paperwork (Actually she was very little help). They told me that I must take a test for my license. Just like I had never driven!!! Oh well!! In fact, ACI should have told me this from the start!!! I was given an application to fill out and was invited to sit in on an Oral Exam given there in Lucca to foreigners. I watched a couple of Moroccans fail the exam, but it seemed that they failed because they didn’t know the signs, and not because of the language. The Examiner just pointed to signs and asked what they meant. I was pretty sure I could handle this, so I proceeded with the application. Now, you have to understand, this application is extremely complex and none of my Italian friends could figure out what I really had to do. For instance, there were three little forms to fill out and attach a Marca da Bollo to each form. These were available at the Tabacchi , and then I had to bring the forms to the Post Office. Each Marca da Bollo cost 33 EURO. Then there were two other pieces of paper one that required a stamp for 11 EURO, and another to bring to the ASLA (Public Health Department) where I had to make an appointment for another eye exam and pay another 30 EURO. Also I had to go to a store that sells eyeglasses and have them give me the prescription that fit my glasses. Plus I had to get 4 photographs made. So, all this took a few days and I returned to Lucca with Dante in tow to help me if there were other questions. Of course there were! I had not properly filled out some document and had to go get another 33 EURO stamp. Since the Motorizzazione closes at 11:30 for the day, there is never enough time to go and come back, so we returned the next day. I was told then to return in 5 weeks to get the appointment. Once again, the time frame these Italians work in is LLEENNTTAAMMEENNTTEE!! !!!!!

 In the meantime, I went to the Volks Wagon dealer to buy a car. They were happy to sell me a car and I made out an application for a loan from VW and left a 1,000 EURO deposit with the dealer. Then they noticed that my Permesso di Soggiorno had expired!!!! !! I thought it was good for 5 years like my Residenza. It had actually expired in January! So, here I am illegal once again. So I went to the Questura to get a new one. Thinking that since I had already had one, it would just be a little time for an update. SO SILLY OF ME!  Meanwhile, the VW Bank had approved my loan and had contacted my bank for automatic payments. So, here I was without a car but paying for it!!!! I went to the bank and was able to suspend the loan process until I actually got the car. But this is just another example of Italian B.I. and German Efficiency that I thought was so telling! VW Bank, being German processed the loan in 4 or 5 days, while  it would be another 5 months of waiting for that Permesso di Soggiorno without which I could do nothing official!!!!

Back to Lucca. I had returned in the 5 weeks to the Motorizzazione only to find out that since my Permesso di Soggiorno had expired, they could not give me an appointment for the test. I must return when I got the new one. July, August, September, October had passed without the Permesso di Soggiorno. I had tickets to fly to the States on 20 November. On 19 November (my birthday), Dante surprised me by finding out that my Permesso di Soggiorno had arrived!!! He took me to the Questura to pick it up and that, along with dinner, was a nice birthday surprise. Of course, there was nothing to be done before I left for the States except take the document home. But knowing that I was finally legal once again was a relief of sorts. Actually, I have come to prefer the illegal status. It’s much easier!!!! When faced with officialdom Italians just shrug their shoulders and says “Boh”. That seems to be the expected and correct response to all official questions!!!

The fact is that basically for half the year I will always be una clandestina (an illegal immigrant) because the document is only good for 2 years, and you cannot apply for your new Permesso di Soggiorno until a few months before the other one expires. Then it takes 5 or 6 months to get the new one! Oh well!!!!  Anyway, while I was in the States, Dante contacted the VW dealer and told them that I had gotten the Permesso di Soggiorno. After I faxed them some updated documentation, they said that all was in order and I could get the car at any time.

But I was not returning until January. Immediately upon my return, I got my nice new car! Cutest little thing! It’s a VW Polo. Just a shade smaller than the Golf. Much easier to manoeuvre here in the hills than the Saab. I’m quite happy with it. BUT, having a car registered in my name makes it truly imperative that I get an Italian license!!!! Madre Mia!!! Back to Lucca! You may recall that it was June when I was last there. And so, after waiting in the ever-present line, I was told that my application had been good only for 6 months! Scaduto!!!!! EXPIRED!!!! GONE!!! Another $120 down the drain!!! And I must repeat the whole f……….ing process once more!!! Boh!!!!! More than the money, it’s the PROCESS that’s so infuriating!!!

I asked Dante to help me with the application again, and he suggested that we try the Motorizzazione in Pistoia since it’s closer to the house. So we went there to see if we could make an appointment for an oral exam. The woman at the counter was molto gentile (how unusual) and she had actually recognized my name from 2 years before when ACI was trying to get my license! She told me that ACI was told that it was impossible to convert the license and that I must take an exam. Why didn’t they tell me that? Boh!!!! She told me to come back in ten days to get the appointment. Wow, I thought! That’s pretty quick! She also mentioned that there could be a problem because my famous Permesso di Soggiorno didn’t show the city where I was born. It only showed Massachusetts. She said to go to the Questura to get it corrected. We went that day, and Dante talked with them. They said the Permesso di Soggiorno uses information from your passport and since that just has Massachusetts on it, then all is correct.  So, I put it out of my head.

Ten days later, I returned and got a date for the exam. March 11. Not too bad. Only three weeks away. I chose (and paid extra for) the oral exam because of my experience in Lucca. They all said it would be better. And after having watched it there, I thought so too. My appointment was for 8:30 in the morning.

I arrived at 8:20 only to find a line of about 8 people waiting for the doors to open. So, naturally, when we were admitted to the examination area I found that everyone had an 8:30 appointment so it’s really first come first serve. OK. A little annoying, but normal. I was actually 5th in line and it was just after 10:00 that I went in. And guess who’s waiting there for me!!! The famous ONE ENGINEER referred to by ACI!!!! And even though I’m paranoid, it doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me!!! This guy was lying in wait!!! Oh Dio, Madre Mia! Che disastro!!!

First, he had just smoked a cigarette (there are at least 6 signs forbidding smoking in the building), so that was a little annoying. Then he asked for my Permesso di Soggiorno and my Carta d’Identità (ID card). Without really looking at it, he said it was wrong because it had only Massachusetts for my place of birth. He said I must go to the Questura and get it corrected. Now, I know for a fact that he, like the lovely lady at the counter, recognized my name. And I could tell by his comportment that he was not disposed to be accommodating to me. I don’t know if it’s a combination of hating Americans in general or me in particular. (If you have all followed the news about the “kidnapped Italian journalist” and the shooting at the checkpoint in Baghdad, you may realize that there is quite a lot of anti-American sentiment here these days. Of course, that’s another whole story that I have a particular take on and I’m sure it will make a great movie sometime. But this one’s already too long!!!!)

To get back to the Engineer….I told him that I had, in fact, gone to the Questura but they explained about the passport. Then I showed him my passport. He wasn’t particularly interested in it. He began to give me a geography lesson on the United States. Saying that Massachusetts was a big place so they must put the city of birth on the Permesso di Soggiorno. No doubt because of my expression, he thought that I didn’t understand what he was saying, so he continued with examples of other states and their relative size with respect to Italy.

Now, I know that you all know that at times I may display a bit of a wise-ass/rolling eyes expression. BUT BELIEVE ME I WAS ACTING TOTALLY SUBSERVIENT!!! So, I asked if this problem was going to have to be resolved before I could take the exam. He said “no” I should go to the Questura afterwards. I agreed to do that and he finally stopped with the geography lesson. Now, while he was “lecturing” I understood him perfectly, so I thought that the test would go OK. Then he proceeded to take out his cell phone, open it, and to begin digitizing something. While continuing to look at his cell phone he said something that ended with the Italian words meaning “let’s talk about traffic lights”. I heard this, but had no idea that it was a question directed at me until he looked at me and said “I asked you a question, what is your answer”! I had been waiting patiently for him to finish whatever he was doing with his cell phone and had no idea that he was addressing me!!! So, I said I was sorry but didn’t understand his question. He repeated. Basically he said for me to talk about traffic lights. At this point I was getting a little nervous. So, I said “red stop, green go”. What else could I answer? Then he asked how many meters would it take for the vehicle to stop if it were travelling at 50 kph (the speed limit in the city). Now, I knew I was screwed!!! No idea, I said. Maybe 20 meters. I pulled this out of my head having no idea what 20 meters really is. I never have been able to internalise the metric system!!! So, he went on the next topic. How many meters is the secure distance between cars on the highway going 80 kph? Again, I couldn’t answer. I gave him the American answer of 1 car length for every 10 mph. Of course he didn’t want to hear this, notwithstanding his interest in U.S.A. geography. So, that was the end of the test. He threw me out and said I could return when I was better prepared. I asked him where I should go to make another appointment. He told me, and said it has to be at least 30 days from today. I thanked him (still without rolling my eyes) and went to the office where the line being so long, I decided to leave and return another day (maybe).

There is no question that it was my fault for not really studying the book. I realize these questions were legitimate, but I made the mistake of thinking the test would only be comprised of signs (which I really do know). And the fact that all the other examinees were carrying around the booklet that only had signs in it, confirmed the idea in my mind that that was how it would go. I really don’t know how the test was conducted for the others. I subsequently found the answers to his questions in my book (although there doesn’t seem to be an answer in meters for the second question, but a list of answers delineating a number of factors that the secure distance is dependent upon. Naturally, we all know this. Although I never considered the physical health of the driver to be one of the answers, it is there in the list!!!! So, I guess if the guy in front of you has a bellyache, you must give him more space!!! But how much space? How many additional meters are required for a bellyache, or headache, or influenza? For example, would a headache be roughly equivalent to driving in snowy conditions? Or perhaps someone with the flu must be given the same secure distance as driving in fog?

So now, for my next trick, I think I will try to take the written test. It can’t be any worse than dealing with that Cretino!!! (A prettier word than Asshole). Of course, he is most likely the guy who administers the practical test too!!!!! BUT, I’m a bit worried about taking the practical test because, according to the formula in the book, you must maintain a distance of 25 meters between cars while travelling in the city at 50 kph. The formula is the speed divided by 10 then the answer multiplied by itself. So, 50/10 = 5X5=25. By the way, for those who, like me, are metrically challenged, 50 kph is about 30 mph and 25 meters is 82.5 feet!!! Mi Scusa!! In the city you’re lucky if you can maintain 1 foot between your car and the one in front or behind you!!!!! So if Cretino gives the test, the next story could be even more entertaining!!There is one thing I can promise. If Cretino is there the next time I go, I will do the Eyes-Roll!!

OCT 2005

Here’s an update on “LA PATENTE”. I had my appointment yesterday at 8:30 am. (the crack of dawn here). Dante accompanied me, although I told him I’d go by myself. He left me off after ascertaining that the test would take about 1/2 hour. As people went into the waiting room, it looked to me like the same situation as last time (that people would be taken one at a time). This didn’t make any sense to me for a written exam (although, of course, NONE OF THIS MAKES SENSE). So I asked one of the men there who appeared to be a teacher if this was how the exam was given. He told me that it was an oral exam. Then I went to the examiner who had a list of people who were supposed to take the exam. Sure enough, I was on the list. I told him that I had taken the exam a month before and since I don’t really speak well enough, I had failed and made an appointment for the written exam. He said that there was no written exam that day and I should go and make another appointment. Of course, now I was stuck there without a car, so I went and stood in line again while other people argued this and that with the woman at the desk. Naturally, she remembered me and when I explained the situation, she admitted that she had made a mistake and scheduled me for the written exam on May 2, 2006.  I know the Italian bureaucracy is insane. But I can’t help but believe that this accumulation of events around trying to get a license could only happen to me!!!! When will this “nuvola nera” (black cloud) ever pass???

While I was waiting for Dante to return, I talked with another Driving School teacher about the Oral Exam. I noticed that people were being given the exam in the same way that I had witnessed in Lucca last year; that is, the examiner points to a symbol on a chart and asks what it means. You get to explain in just a few words. I know I could pass this kind of test. It’s what I had expected the last time. So, I asked this woman if this was the normal mode of testing, and she told me that it is always like this. When I told her my sad tale, she asked me if the examiner was the little short guy. I told her “yes”, and she just nodded her head. So, my original suspicion that he was not conducting my test in the regular way was confirmed. Oh well, he’s just a “Cretino” or a “Stronzo).

I spent many hours with the manual and the dictionary, and I thought I was prepared and could pass. But I was not feeling sure of anything anymore! I had a book of sample tests and they are really tricky!!! Each question has three responses that you must choose true or false to. So, in fact, 10 questions are really 30 questions. And they are worded even for Italians in a way that is very tricky. So………….

I thought if I don’t pass this time, I’ll give it up and just stay illegal forever.

I did, in fact, fail the written exam. I have to say that this is my own fault. I just don’t understand some of the nuances in the Italian language. The man who administered this last test was molto gentile and he conducted both the test and himself in a very professional way.

Well, I didn’t give up entirely at that time, but naturally, when I decided to continue trying to get my license, I found that after two unsuccessful tries, one must wait six months then start the process all over again. Back to the eye doctor, back to the Tabbachi, 4 more photos, etc, etc, etc,.

But I did it. Pretty much without complaining. I returned to the Motorizzazione for another appointment to take the written exam which was set at about 5 weeks from that day, and I re-commenced my studying. This time I passed with only one wrong answer!!! What a relief! But we’re not done yet!

For the practical exam, I was told I needed to go to a driving school and make an appointment to take the test through them. I did this immediately after passing the written exam. I needed to get it done pretty quickly now because the famous Permesso di Soggiorno (PdiS) will once again expire in November, and I’m going to the States in November and will not return until January. If I do not get the license before I leave, I won’t be able to do anything official until probably May or June when I get my new PdiS. Of course by then everything will once again be SCADUTO! And I’ll have to start again from scratch.

At the driving school, they suggested that I take one or two lessons prior to the exam to familiarize myself with the likely route that the examiner would use and also to get comfortable with the Italian way of testing. I thought this was a good recommendation, and I signed up for a lesson to be made 2 days before the exam. The cost for using their dual-controlled car for the exam (which is mandatory) was 160 EURO! Outrageous! The cost of a lesson was 15 EURO, which I considered reasonable. I stressed to the auto school that I was in a hurry to take the test because I was going out of the country and needed to complete this before leaving. They told me there was no problem because they had driving tests every Wednesday. Good news!

I took my lesson the next Monday. It was actually quite helpful and the instructor whose name is Montelbano, was very good and thorough. I did actually have trouble stopping on the hill because the gas pedal in his dual-controlled car is just a little button of a thing and I couldn’t find it very smoothly with my foot. That and backing into small parking spaces gave me a bit of pause. Plus, 45 years of “bad habits” such as not always holding the wheel with both hands. This was a problem especially when backing up. It’s difficult to turn just my head far enough to see clearly in back of me. This is, no doubt, due to my advanced age. So at the end of the lesson, Montelbano suggested that I take another lesson before the test. I really considered this just a way of making an extra 15 EURO, so I said I’d think about it. Then, when I went back to his office, I was told that, in fact, there would be no exam that Wednesday, but to come the following week. I didn’t much like this, but there was really nothing to be done.

Later that day I got a call from the auto school telling me that I had left my cell phone in their car. I tried three different times to pick it up at their office, but found each time that the office was closed, even though I went during the time of their posted hours. I was beginning to get a little annoyed with these people and worried that they might not have an exam the following week either. So, I asked Dante to call for me on Monday and confirm the Wednesday test. They said fine, but call Wednesday morning before coming to the office. I called at noon and was told to call back in half an hour. Now I was really paranoid! How could they not know at noon of the exam day whether the exam would take place or not a 3 pm? What a way to do business! But, my worrying was in vain, and I did indeed have the appointment. I was told to come to the school at quarter of 3.

November 2006

I arrived with Dante and we were told that the exam was to take place at another driving school a few miles away. There was only one other person (an 18 year old boy named Francesco) and myself. Dante came with us to the other driving school where we waited with 4 other examinees for the examiner. He was over a half hour late, and when he showed up GUESS WHO IT WAS!!! JEEZZ! I REALLY HATE IT WHEN I’M RIGHT ABOUT STUFF LIKE THIS!! I knew it would be him! Yes, you guessed it, THE CRETINO! And the first thing he did upon showing up was go to the bar for a cup of coffee. No greeting, no buon giorno, no I’ll be right back, he just went and left it for the instructors to tell the examinees that he went for coffee.

This type of behaviour is typical of many low level “officials” within the Italian bureaucracy. It is ignorant beyond belief, given that 5 of the 6 people waiting to take their exams were 18 year old ragazzi, trying for the first time to get their driving licenses. Now, we all know what a tense time that is. And to disregard us in this fashion and keep us waiting is beyond rude. Anyway…

The Cretino did finally return and Francesco and I were to be his first victims. I was to be second, so I climbed into the back seat with the Cretino. Francesco was at the wheel and the instructor with his dual controls were up front. The first thing I did was buckle up my seat belt (which is a comparatively new law here). I had asked the instructor earlier that day if it was necessary to buckle up in the back seat. He told me it was “obliglatorio”. I noticed that I was the only one buckling up, but I said nothing. I was a little afraid that Cretino would fail Francesco (and me) for not assuring that everyone was buckled up. But he said nothing. In fact, he said nothing the whole time except an occasional “Adestra or Sinistra”. But he did immediately commence whistling (out of tune I might add), and when he did speak, his voice was so low that I, sitting right next to him, had a hard time hearing it. The instructor often had to ask him to repeat himself. Another thing for me to worry about when it was my turn! Would I hear or understand him???? Shades of the oral exam when he mumbled into his cell phone!

Francesco did fine. He was faced with a couple of challenges when pedestrians would just walk out in front of him and he had to make a sudden stop. Of course, he was nervous, but certainly competent. He did not have to stop on a hill or park in a small spot. He was just told to back into a large area and park.

Then it was my turn!!!! Finally, after 3 1-2 years of trying to get to this point! Once again, Cretino mumbled something that I did not understand, but Montelbano told me to get into the driver’s seat. So, off we went. I was actually not nervous at all because Montelbano told me that if I did not hear or understand something Cretino said, he would repeat it for me. That did ease my mind a lot. Pretty immediately, we had to stop on a hill at an intersection that is really difficult. But I was very familiar with this area, so it was not problem. Then he had me going in and out of the city streets and then into a small parking area where he told me to back into the smallest space you ever saw. The space was between two badly parked cars whose rear ends were almost touching! It really was not a parking space because, after wiggling in there (with no problem, I might add), there was no way anyone would have been able to open the doors to get out! But, no one had to get out, so off we went again through the city streets. No problem. I was finished!!! Cretino still said nothing to either Francesco or me. We returned to the driving school office where Cretino commenced to disassemble his pen. I think it was because it was nearly out of ink, but I’m not really sure why he did this. Then, having ink all over his fingers, he left to wash his hands, once again saying nothing. The driving school folks, having had many dealings with this guy, simply took over from that point and had Francesco and I sign our licenses! So we both passed!!!! Yippeeee!!! Wahooo!!!! The story has a good ending!!! Everyone (except Cretino) was happy. But it’s clear to me that he’s never had a happy day in his life.

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3 Responses to La Patente

  1. Sue Walsh January 14, 2016 at 3:59 pm #

    Does my friend, Mary, have the ” Patience of a Saint or the” stubbornness of a mule” or the indefatigable desire to “win” ? The truth is.. a charming and mostly lovable blend of all three, combined with an extraordinary intelligence, that allows her to survive in this insanity ! Oh and most important a pervasive sense of dark Irish humor.

  2. Samantha West January 14, 2016 at 10:36 pm #

    OMG Mary what amazing experience You had me laughing out loud. Just a marvelous story.
    How great to hear you stayed in Italy. Best wishes for you new year .

  3. Jeff Johnson January 15, 2016 at 5:18 pm #

    Mary,
    Your 3 1/2 year story dealing with the Italian bureaucracies makes a convincing case for remaining an illegal immigrant in Italy forever. I share Sue Walsh’s comments. You have the patience, tenacity and perseverance to complete a mission—-admirable qualities and a demonstration of your strong character. May God Bless You and Dante for dealing with the Italian bureaucracies. I’ll send you a U.S. Navy bureaucracy experience I had recently to your personal email address. Keep sending these stories. I always enjoy reading them. Fondly, Jeff

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