17 November 2009

Social Climbers

For all you die-hard Cath's Cache Blog followers, I'm treating you to a sneak preview of our 'new look' (see bottom of page). This 'new look' will appear for a short time only (in order to minimise our embarrassment) so make the most of it. Hopefully our deterioriation will remind you to be grateful for your jobs...

In the meantime, we are proud to announce that we appear to have penetrated the upper eschelons of Canelli society.

Yesterday, we went to the Post Office to pay a bill for the annual fill of our gas tank (EUR 1,500).
We parked outside reasonably easily and looked in the windows to assess how busy it was. Thankfully, we saw only a few heads bobbing along the window.

So we walked in with supreme confidence, our breasts beating proudly in the knowledge that we had money in the bank and plastic. This bill would be paid in an efficient and smooth manner.

We waited. People left. More people came. Even more people came.

Finally, our number was called. We approached the desk and announced that we wanted to pay a bill.

The lady behind the counter was late middle-aged, one of those important public servant types who exudes indispensability and prides themselves on the speed at which they can process paperwork.

She processed our bill for long minutes in the computer before she turned to us and asked for the money.

I gave her my plastic debit card.

She turned to her keyboard and typed for more long minutes.

'Non posso!', she said, 'EUR 1,000 limita!'

I looked at Stuart, assuming that he hadn't made a transfer from Switzerland (when embarrassed, always blame someone else...)

'But we have way more money than that in the bank!', he whispered.

We stared at her.

I forgot all my Italian. I'd become deaf, dumb and stupid.

She became louder.

'Non posso!'

I did what I always do when I'm in a crowded room and I can't understand.

'Inglese?', I asked.

'Non Inglese!', she yelled.

At this point, the eyes of all 56 people in the post office were upon us. Every one of them knew that we couldn't speak Italian AND that we couldn't pay our bill.

We were instructed us to go to the bank and return with cash so that she could complete the payment.

We crept away quietly, our heads inside our shoulders.

At the bank, we put our plastic in the machine and discovered that we had a cash withdrawal limit of EUR 500 each per day. That meant we had EUR 1,000 to pay a bill of EUR 1,500. Any idiot knows that this is 'non posso'.

With our confidence in our gumboots, we returned to the Post Office, where approximately 20 new people were waiting to be served.

She beamed when she saw us. Now she could process! Her reputation would remain intact.

She dumped her current customer and gesticulated for us to approach her counter.

We worried briefly about the customer who already stood at the counter. Her request for a stamp for her parcel had been suspended in mid sentence.

'Non posso', we said to the public servant, 'Soltante EUR 1,000. Noi pagiamo domani'.

She frowned. She talked to herself. She reddened. She expanded in a Hulk-like way.

The customer waited while the public servant yelled our problems to a colleague. Eventually, and only after everyone in the general vicinity knew our business, she gave us a form shreiking instructions in fast Italian.

The customer leaned over to us.

'I speak English. Can I help?', she said.

'Yes please!', we gushed.

She explained that the public servant had already processed the payment so we needed to complete the form in order to annul the payment. It would be processed afresh when we returned at a later date with the correct amount of cash.

While Stuart was listening, I was observing her non-verbals. She was an elegant woman of early middle age, with thick shoulder length hair that had been well coiffured. She wore heavy makeup and jangled with an expensive wrist watch and other jewellery. I turned my eyes to her parcel and strained to read the name and address on it.

It seemed that she was from the only Michelin Star restaurant in Canelli. We were 'socialising' with a member of the Canelli elite.

We thanked her and everyone else in the Post Office and left, confident in the knowledge that we'd taken our first step into Canelli society.

p.s. Some time later, Stuart suggested that if we ever went to her restaurant she'd be highly likely to ask for a downpayment before feeding us...

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