It should have been a simple morning, a pre-café trip to the bank to explain that bizarrely, my bankcard doesn’t seem to be working at the ATM. In a restaurant, no problem. At the bookstore, a-okay. But as soon as I need cold, hard cash the machine refuses to accept my card. Won’t even read it. Turns it down like Roger Sterling and any woman over 20 years old.
It’s probably entirely my fault. Since my bag got stolen I haven’t purchased a new wallet- I keep my change in a small coin purse and so, on the odd occasion that I’ve needed to take my card out with me, it sits loosely in the side-pocket of my bag wrapped in a piece of paper with the PIN written on it. It is scratched and pummelled, and thus apparently no longer works- so I figured I’d do three things:
1. Get a new card from the nice people at the bank.
2. Buy a wallet to protect the new card from the nice people at the bank.
3. Memorise my PIN.
INTERNET, I AM GROWING UP. Look at me go, resolving to improve my life and stop being a domestic slut. NEXT I’LL BE WRITING MY NAME IN MY BOOKS AND HANGING OUT MY CLOTHES THE SAME DAY AS I WASH THEM.
It’s amazing, really, that I even have a bankcard- going 8 months without an Italian bank account really was no problem. Well, at least until Ryanair tried to have sex with my bum and I had to cry at a stranger to use their card to buy me a flight.
“So, what exactly do you do with all your money, then?” my friend Alma asked me. “Just keep it in a big pile under your bed?”
My silence was her answer.
“Ohmygod, you are so bohemian.”
Bohemian, no. Distrustful of the entire economy Italy is founded on? Yes.
After Berlusconi was ousted and Super Mario changed the economic game by demanding all financial transactions become more transparent, my job now pays half my pay check into a bank account- at a bank where my boss is friends with the manager, of course.
The other half of my paycheck gets given to me cash-in-hand, and I get two different ‘official’ pay slips, too. This is common practise is this country, and it irritates me- and most Italians- when the fall of the Euro is blamed on their faulty processes because hey! IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN THIS WAY.
Don’t act like these systems are news to you, Angela Merkel. You can’t sleep with the guitar-playing lead singer of a heavy-metal band when you are friends with his girlfriend and then get cross when he gives both of you herpes.
At the bank, the woman was all, Oh? How strange. I can’t imagine what the problem might be. We were speaking in Italian, which as you know I CAN’T DO, and so I simply nodded sagely as if to say, Absolutely- you are so wise.
Can I see it? she asked me, and I handed it to her. I explained the situation once more and she shook her head in confusion. She thought about what I had said, and I presumed the answer would be, Hey, let me order you a new card then, shall I?
Instead, she held my existing card in the palm of her hands, looked at it closely, AND THEN WIPED IT ON HER JUMPER.
Let’s try it now, she said.
Oh! Wiping it on my jumper! WHY DIDN’T I THINK OF THAT?
We traipsed outside to the ATM to try the card again. One of us was unsurprised when the card wasn’t accepted. The other one said, Well, I don’t know what we should do next, then.
Then she suggested I go for a coffee, and come back to try it again in 5 minutes- the equivalent to unplugging the TV before realising the reason it doesn’t work is because it is on fire.
She seemed shocked when, five minutes later, I returned. She was irritated at me, put out, and said, WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO?
WHAT DO I WANT YOU DO? WHAT DO I WANT YOU TO DO? I want you to fix it, you dumb, lazy, Italian-fucking-whore-for-brains. Stop being such a brother-bonking tit, put your big girl pants on and your cappuccino down, and DO SOMETHING.
See also: Are we really playing the game where I tell you how to do your job?
I explained, calmly, that I needed a new card, and since this one wasn’t working I’d also need to withdraw cash to tide me over in the meantime. She told me there’d be a five Euro charge for each manual transaction. I told her to go and eat a bag of dicks with ranch dressing on the side.
I left with my money and an appointment to come back next week to pick everything up. She was left with the an entire destiny to be played out in this backwards hell-hole of ineffective management, in which even my Italian friends agree with me when I say, “Rome is lovely- it’s just no place to live when you actually want to achieve something.”
They laugh and hold up their hands in surrender and shrug. “We know,” they say. “What do you want us to do?”