Monday, October 14, 2013

The Italian Art of Parking - Part Two

Written by Karen.
For the next five days, we made a daily evening trek over to our hidden parking place to make sure that our little guy was still there.  We breathed a sigh of relief when he was and there were no parking tickets plastered to the window.  Maybe white and yellow parking areas were just like white parking areas?  In any case, it looked like we were home free.  

The sixth morning found us up early and walking over to our i20 with our backpacks.  We figured we would load up the car first, go back and give the apartment key to Isabella, and head off well before the crush of the noon traffic arrived.

As we walked up to the car, Adam said calmly, "We've got a ticket." "Whaat?", I responded, stepping out into the street so I could see for myself. There it was.  We both stood in the middle of the street staring at the thick mound of papers flapping in the early morning breeze in disbelief.  "I can't believe it...I mean...it's not blue!," I groaned.  Visions of bureaucratic red-tape nightmares immediately started dancing in my head.

Out of the corner of my eye, I could see two city workers standing behind the yellow bulldozer having some sort of disagreement. "Ciao", I walked over, "Scusi.  Prego question?" The older guy looked up and nodded, "Sì". "Bianco parking is gratuito, sì?" "Sì," he responded.  Yellow and bianco parking is gratuito, sì? "No, no, no. Italiano. Governo. Privato" was all I could understand from his response. He looked at us, blew a long sympathetic sigh through his pursed lips and made a motion for me to crumple up the ticket and toss it aside.  I shook my head as I considered the suggestion, but eventually thought better of it.

Throw away a parking ticket - in another country - and become a wanted scofflaw at the border?  Indeed not!   But now the older man was yelling at the younger man even louder.  It seems that the younger man called in the parking ticket and the older man was now letting him have it. Voices were raised and hands began to punctuate the increasingly loud staccato sentences. It was time to go. I waved good-bye, but both were too engrossed in their argument to notice our parting gesture.  

Adam moved the car into a nearby blue zone and dropped enough euros into the parking machine for nearly four hours of paid downtown parking.  That should be enough time to pay our ticket, return the apartment keys back to Isabella and still leave Genoa at a reasonable time of day.

"Where do you think we have to go to pay the fine?", I wondered.  We read the ticket, but couldn't find an address.  Hmmmm.  Well, let's go find the parking ticket guy, he'll point us in the right direction.  So, off we went in search of the dreaded parking enforcement officer. 

It wasn't long before we actually found a uniformed parking enforcement officer deep in a friendly conversation with another man in front of a restaurant. They both stopped mid-conversation with question marks across their faces as we walked up. We asked the uniformed parking enforcement officer where we could pay the fine.  I gave him the ticket and he began to read it. His friend grabbed one side of the ticket and they both started studying the ticket intensely.  

After a few minutes of deep concentration and muttered comments between the two men, the uniformed parking enforcement officer shrugged and said he didn't know where we should pay the 28.50 euro fine.  He did say it was a minor administrative ticket and was no big deal.  

He handed back the ticket, getting ready to end our discussion and get back to the friendly conversation that we had interrupted.  I pressed him a bit further, offering some suggestions of possible government entities that would typically accept payments: Bank, City Hall, Post Office? He shrugged more emphatically and answered that he did not know.

Adam and I looked at each other in disbelief.  We were at a loss.  How could someone who was actually employed to write parking tickets not know how to pay them?  Or even where to go to pay the fine?  And even more ominously, the question of exactly how were we going to eventually pay this parking ticket? 

Suddenly, the other man gestured for us to give him the ticket, so we did.  He mumbled a few words in contemptuous Italian (which we totally understood) and then said a few words to his acquaintance, the uniformed parking enforcement officer. They both laughed.  Then, without our consent and in plain view of his acquaintance, he suddenly - and with grand dramatic gestures - tore our ticket into small pieces.  

The uniformed parking enforcement officer laughed again and clapped his hands together.  Visions of bureaucratic red-tape nightmares were no longer dancing in my head, but now were now threatening to overrun me like a tidal wave. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath  This really could not be happening.   

I shot a quick look at Adam and almost laughed out loud.  I knew that I had to look as shocked as Adam looked, and if the situation didn't have any possible serious consequences, I would have indeed laughed at Adam's expression.  

Our tumble down the rabbit hole continued. The man who ripped up our parking ticket in such a dramatic manner held the ticket pieces in both of his hands, rubbed his bald head, narrowed his eyes, blew air loudly out of his pursed lips, shouted "Basta!" (Enough!) and with a flourish threw the crumpled pieces of our ticket in the dirty gutter.  

"Me Italiano, you English.  No ticket. No problem.  Have a nice day!" He smiled at us, happy to have helped the tourists that were visiting his city.  "Ciao!"' he waved - I think he would have kissed my cheeks in typical Italian fashion if I hadn't been frozen in place - and then turned to the still laughing parking enforcement officer, said a few more contemptuous words in Italian, thoroughly washed his hands in the air and they began their discussion again.

We were stunned by what we had just witnessed.  I didn't move.  The reel in my mind that plays out possible scenarios was stuck and refused to venture any further.  

Our ticket is now in the gutter and has been irreparably defaced.  It had a number on it, and also clearly referenced our rental car.  Okay, now what do we do?  We really don't have a parking ticket anymore.

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