After struggling through my permesso di soggiorno packet with Lenny, bless his heart, we head to Agenzia delle Entrate to get my codice fiscale (more or less an Italian social security number) and tessera sanitaria, a card that will allow me to enroll in the public health system in Italy (suck it, Paul Ryan).
We approach the counter, and my father-in-law springs into action. “We need…” Renzo pauses and looks at me. “Wait, what do we need again, Christina?” I inhale and take the reins, explaining in Italian (maybe, sorta) what I’m here for.
We head to the designated line, and then I speak with a second official. He hands me a ticket and explains that after I meet with a third official, my card should arrive in the mail in a few weeks.
“Say it to her in English,” Renzo orders him. The man scoffs at him and shrugs at me.
“No, no, I understand. It’s okay,” I calmly interject, as if it’s no big deal that I’m navigating this foreign bureaucracy semi-autonomously. Meanwhile, I’m doing this inside:
We take a seat in the waiting area and watch the screen for #71. Plenty of time to absorb my daily doses of parental advice:
- “Always use a folder to carry your important documents, that way you have them all together in one place.”
- “Watch your purse. Always watch your purse.”
- “Water is good for you. Like fruit.” Renzo hands me a bottle; I open it and accidentally drop the cap on the floor. “Don’t pick that up, it’s dirty now.” I awkwardly balance my open bottle while shuffling through documents, trying not to drown my precious papers.
Like an impatient father, Renzo stands up and walks right underneath the screen, as if staring at it more closely might flip the numbers in our favor. A watched pot never boils, they say — but maybe in Italy the adage is, “A watched pot is the first step in pasta making.”
Now that I think of it though, this behavior may be more related to his eyesight than parental instincts. He always asks his car passengers to read him the street signs.
“When the screen shows #70, we’ll go sit closer to the counter so we can get there faster,” Renzo advises. “Like speedy Gonzalez.”
Also, just in case I forgot: “Keep your purse in front of you. Someone robbed me once.” He later admits he may have just forgotten his bag on the train.
A young Asian guy is sitting alone in front of us; he turns around and looks at the people sitting behind him, turns forward, and then turns back again. “Do you speak English?” he asks me. And then I — IO, ME, YO, THIS GIRL — help him fill out the same form I just did. At that point, I already felt like I might conquer the world (piazza), and then —ding— my number was called.
I meet with my third Italian official. She asks me three questions, and I respond while Renzo sits quietly next to me. Stamp, stamp, stamp, badabing badaboom. “Fatto.” Fatto?! I exclaim. “Sì, fatto,” she confirms.
She hands me my temporary document, and Renzo and I high-five. He compliments the woman and her office’s services. “If we were in Calabria, it wouldn’t be this organized,” he says.
“Should we go to the Comune di Milano now to get the marriage certificate?” I ask after our high-five. “Ma nooo, sono stanco. Andiamo domani.” He’s tired; we’ll try tomorrow.
Instead we go home to have lunch together — I show him how to use the microwave* to warm up leftover pasta. A tool he once scoffed at as an American junk food device, he now appreciates for its efficiency.
“You’re Milanese now! Tell Alberto we didn’t accomplish anything today,” Renzo jokes. We high-five again.
*Alberto and I bought the microwave as a birthday present for his mom a couple months ago, but it sat on a shelf unused until we arrived. In addition to pasta, the household is very excited about defrosting bread, melting cheese and heating up focaccia.