As many of you know, last week I lost Internet access in my apartment. For those of you keeping track, this would be day 10.
While the loss of Internet has been frustrating in itself, what made it worse is that it was the tip of the Italian-appliance-difficulty-iceberg. Since my arrival my hot water heater has only been producing about two minutes of hot water in the morning making for some quick and tepid showers; my tv which was advertised as a one of the ‘extras’ in the apartment has no remote and no access to anything except a dvd player; and finally, my power shuts off every time I run more than one appliance at a time.
As you all know from Internet Woes Part I, my rental agent was sending a ‘technician’ this week to fix all these problems.
Turns out the ‘technician’ or ‘technicians’ were a very friendly father-son duo who are actually electricians. They spent at least an hour at my apartment working on the various problems but weren’t able to fix anything. They apologized profusely and left and I went off to my gym which has wireless, sent off an angry e-mail to my agent detailing the ‘technician’s’ report and jumped on the stationary bike to work off my frustration.
When I returned home I decided that making a big pot of minestrone with all the fresh vegetables I had purchased at the farmer’s market would be a good way to make myself feel better about my apartment’s deficiencies. In Rome, farmer’s markets go year round unlike in most cities in the US and there is an excellent selection of squashes, greens, citrus, etc. See pictures here:
I chopped up the vegetables, threw everything in the pot, turned on the burner and . . . the electricity went off.
This has happened before when I have been using too many appliances at the same time, but it has always been quickly resolved because all I have to do is turn everything off, go downstairs to the fuse-box, flip a switch, and the power returns. This time, I was not so fortunate. After multiple tries, including on other people’s boxes (just in case), I called my friend Laura who told me to grab my toothbrush and my computer and come over to her apartment where I could spend the evening firing off angry e-mails and sleep in her extra bedroom.
What followed was calls to the agent, return calls, lots of promises that things would be resolved quickly and in fact, by the next morning, the power was back on, and over the next few days my tv has been repaired, and a plumber has come to bring a new hot water heater.
Of course, there is still no Internet.
As though right on cue, Corriere della Sera (English edition on the web) published an article entitled: “Consumers Give Italy a Thumbs Down” and the first few lines read:
“Italians are Europe’s most disgruntled consumers of electricity, post and telephone services. Electricity costs twice as much as in Finland.” See the rest here.
Whenever I am feeling frustrated by Italian inefficiencies, I find it best to seek out a German. While American’s are certainly sympathetic, I often feel like at some level they see it as part of the charms of Italy. However, Germans seem to take it as a personal affront, after all, they are now all members of the EU and civilized countries are expected to provide certain services in a prompt and orderly fashion, ja?
This would explain the fact that German newspapers have been attacking the Italians over the trash situation in Naples. In response, the Veneto region (where Venice is located) is running an add campaign that explains “We are not Naples!” See an article on this here.
I suspect the German reaction is much like the way I felt the day after the last presidential election. Though I had not voted for Bush, 51% of my fellow Americans had decided to return him to office and I felt completely horrified and embarrassed.
So, the day after the power outage, I went for coffee during our break in language class with two of my German classmates.
This was therapeutic for two reasons: first, drinking Italian coffee always reminds me that there are some very good things about being here and then when I relayed my tales of woe to the Germans, they were received with a great deal of head wagging and muttering about this is a lovely place to visit but living here is not a good idea. (Which, oddly enough, is the same thing my Italian cousins said to me last week).
I do feel bad for the Italians—they have an enormous trash crisis in Naples which they can’t seem to get a handle on and now the prime minister has resigned, and there is talk that Silvio Berlusconi will return to power. For those of you who are not familiar with Berlusconi there is a useful article in the Economist.
Meanwhile, if you want to feel better about living in the U.S. during the Bush administration, spend a few months here you will feel like we really have our act together.
To continue with my therapy, I plan to spend the rest of the weekend drinking Italian coffee and eating lots of gelato.