One Errand a Day
In the United States we can start the day with a full ‘to do’ list, and end with several things crossed off. In Italy, only the Americans think that’s still possible. Recently we were trying to explain this to some friends of ours who were visiting, and they were giving us a hard time “seriously? You’re exaggerating.” And unfortunately, Italy proceeded to prove my point.
Ingredients for a failed errand day:
- 1 Entire weekday non-holiday off from work (extremely rare)
- 1 Motorino – for fast transit between locations
- 1 To-Do list
- buy vacuum bags
- drop off pictures to be framed
- pick up traffic ticket
- meet girlfriends for lunch
- 4 maps with directions
- 4 addresses and phone numbers
- 1 backpack full of associated papers, pictures, notes, etc.
- 1 city full of inefficiencies
In a manner that is very unlike myself, I got started early in the morning, gathered everything I needed, and prepared to start out on my adventure. The first errand I attempted was the one I had been working on the longest: (over a year, in fact) buy vacuum bags. Why has it taken over a year to buy vacuum bags, you ask? Well … the embassy provided a vacuum cleaner for us – it was a tank, worked amazingly… but it was old. We checked the best-buy equivalent, the Home Depot Equivalent, and the Target equivalent (all sad copies, of course) … and while we found lots of vacuum bags, we never found *our* vacuum bag. Finally I admitted defeat, and asked the embassy for help. They gave us a newer vacuum – which came with an empty vacuum bag – hooray! We filled up that bag & went looking for more. Back to the mall … back to Best-buy, Home Depot, and Target … no dice. But this vacuum is new! I thought that was supposed to solve all of our problems! It’s a hoover though – ‘maybe they have bags online’ I think to myself. Yeahhh … Italy’s not really on the internet, and hoover uses different bags in their European models than they do in the US. *sigh*. Back to the embassy for information. After a few emails, they come back with an address – all the way across town (south AND west). It’s better than nothing though … so I give it a try. Armed with my map, and a visual of the store front (thanks Google StreetView!). 30 minutes later I’m stopped in front of what appears to be a really cute antique store. SCORE: Italy 1 – Kate 0
On to errand number two … oh wait … there’s not enough time before lunch to do errand number two. Better do lunch first. I arrived to lunch early (hooray for my awesome old-school maps!), so I figured I’d review the details for the next errands:
I call up the picture frame place to check their hours … predictably, they’ll be closed when I’m done with lunch, and won’t open again until I’m supposed to meet up with friends for the evening. SCORE: Italy 2 – Kate 0
I pull out the information on picking up my traffic ticket – this one’s near my house so I should be able to find it easily. I got someone from the embassy to translate the note for me (turns out legalese is hard to read in any language), and to call the place and ask exactly where I need to go and what I need to do. No problem. I’ll be ready to go right after lunch. What? What’s that you say? You say you close on Fridays at 11 am so you can enjoy the weekend? SCORE: Italy 3 – Kate 0
It’s barely 12:30, and I have already failed at everything I wanted to do today. Wait … here come my girlfriends down the street – a bottle of wine over lunch? Why, that’s an excellent idea! At least there’s one thing I know how to do in Italy … SCORE: Italy 3 – Kate 1
1. I still don’t have any vacuum bags, we just empty out the one we have by hand over a garbage can. Usually we drop half the dust on the carpet and have to vacuum it up. If this bag wears out, I think I’m going to ask for a new vacuum.
2. I gave up on Italy for the picture frames, measured everything, and ordered frames online. Two years into our tour in Rome, we finally have pictures on our walls.
3. I never bothered to pick up my traffic ticket. It’s been about 6 months – I haven’t heard anything. I figure if it’s not that important to them, it’s not that important to me either.
4. I am still successful at eating lunch on a regular basis. I feel like a winner.