Mind the queue, pregnant lady coming through.

To the uninitiated, Italian bureaucracy is like entering a room full of bees, covered in honey, while reciting all nine of Dante’s Circles of Hell, and trying to remember if you skipped breakfast on 11th January 2001.

I will be going on maternity leave in two months and this means entering the bureaucratic foray again. Being European has saved me a lot of hassle up to now and, so it is with a heavy heart, I reach for that can opener again.

I went to the CGIL office early one morning and asked the man-in-charge where I had to go to find out about maternity leave. I was ushered into a waiting room with about ten other people, where the man-in-charge proclaimed to the room that being pregnant, I would gazump everyone. Their surprise was mirrored on my face and I quickly began opening my coat to expose The Bump, removing any suspicion and some evil stares.

Italians may not know how to queue but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a system. A million people could be crowded in a space but each person will know who is before them and, importantly, who is not.

It was a tense half-hour until the office opened and I could waddle to the only open booth, with the ten or (now) more people trailing behind me like a shoal of Plankton.

In Italy, queuing in a straight line and personal space is for losers.

© M. E. Walsh

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