Two Hours In The Time Machine

Yesterday morning I leasurely walked over to our local post office to post some letters, send a package and pay the phone bill. When I arrived at the small, square, low, grey concrete building the people were already outside and I knew I was in for a long wait. I entered the building – which is fortunately airconditioned – took a number for the payments window and waited.

There are four windows for different functions to perform at the post office, and behind them there is an ever unbending staff of people who will make you dance on the ceiling if it pleases them. In front of them there unvariably is a crowd of Italians of all ages, wafting fresh air into their faces with the mountains of forms you need here to get anything at all done. Every now and then, work is interrupted for someone who needs some form or other – the display stands are always empty and pens are nowhere to be found.

After about twenty minutes it was my turn, and before even paying the phone bill the woman behind the counter pointed at my package and informed me that I needed to go to another window to send it. Even though I didn’t ask her anything about sending packages, she already seemed loathe that I arrived at her window with it. I paid the bill, went back to the number dispenser and took a new number like the good little slave of public servants that I am. Even though Poste Italiane is privatized.

And so I was in for another twenty minutes of watching my fellow citizens get irritated. Post offices here eat time like nothing else. Time – and forms of course. Lots of forms. In fact, I needed a form to send my package to Amsterdam and so, after forty-five minutes in total, I returned home with the package and a form to complete. And since Back To The Seventies is not open in the afternoon – God forbid that someone should have to work all day! – I returned today to finish my business. And since it was even busier and the numbers machine didn’t function properly, it took me one full hour. Inside it was full of people so I waited outside. In the blistering late morning sun. La Bella Vita.

Poste Italiane is everything that’s wrong with Italy. It’s sluggish, it’s uncomfortable, it creates red tape like no other organisation, it’s unwilling, and it’s too large for it’s own good. People come here to do their postal business, but also to get their pensions paid out in cash or to pay various bills. And now they launched a mobile phone service as well, Poste Mobile. I cannot imagine people voluntarily subjecting themselves to Poste Italiane for their mobile phones, but there you have it.

Poste Italiane is the ultimate Time Machine. It eats away time, and it takes you back in time.And it’s about time they changed it.



  1. One day I went to the office of Poste Italiane in a small village in Friuli. The office hadn’t opened yet, but fifteen or sixteen people had gathered at the gate already. Twenty minutes after the official opening time, the gate opened and people meekly went inside. Behind the windows one could see five or six civil servants drinking their morning coffee and chatting leisurely away. One or two went outside next, perhaps to have some more coffee. And then, sighing sadly, they sat down behind the windows, opened up and looked at us with that unsmiling and uninviting faces, telling us: and don’t you dare to cause us to work! But many years afterwards things changed: they got that cool yellow new Italian design signs to take cover behind.

  2. This story makes me laugh. Maybe it’s not so funny-but I can’t help it.

    Not everything gets better when privatized.

    Thanks for making me smile. Now, I will go out to the square to sigh and get some coffee “In the blistering late morning sun.”

    All I knew about the post office in Italy is the film: Il Postino


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