Friday, June 27, 2008

Typical Sicilian Life I'll Miss

It is late Friday night and I am just starting to really realize that this great adventure is quickly coming to an end. When I left California on January 2nd for a 7 month coaching run in Sicily, I literally left some of my closest friends in tears both at Cronies and on their cellphones as we said our good-byes. It seemed like such an incredibly long time to be away from home and loved ones.

I looked at the calendar today and it said that my flight home from London's Heathrow Airport on July 25th was only 28 days away. How fast the time has flown by!

As we entered the final 24 hours of waiting to see if we make the playoffs and, perhaps, our last practice Saturday at 3:00 p.m., I reflect back on some of the most intersting facets of Sicilian life. 

The Aci Castello Post Office
The Great Bologna Parking Ticket Fiasco

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I got a 36 Euro parking ticket while touring Bologna after our game with the Doves. I had purchased an all day 5 Euro parking card which was prominently displayed on my dash and was told would allow me to park in ANY blue lined space in the city except, it turns out, the one I parked in.

I talked with Davide and Gus about it and was instructed that I need to fill out the form attached to the ticket, go to any Post Office, pay the 36 Euros plus one more Euro as a handling fee by the Post Office.

Now what I will really miss is the, shall we say, interesting and somewhat intuitive Sicilian system that exists once you walk in the doors.

From past experience at the Aci Castello Post Office, I knew that there are five customer windows. Window #1 only sells stamps, a novel approach since this IS billed as a POST OFFICE. The other four windows, two of which were closed today, are for the paying of utility bills, license fees, bribing of public officials and, of course, the paying of traffic/parking tickets.

When I walked in, I saw several people either sitting or milling around the room but only two people in line to pay for something, GREAT, this was going to be quick and easy. I stood at the #3 post in the line for about five minutes before two men came up to inform me that I had to wait my turn and that all the sitters and millers were ahead of me. How stupid of me not to know this interesting Sicilian queueing strategy!

I asked who was last and one of the two guys said he was so I milled about waiting for him to get in line at the appropriate time. During the 15 minutes I waited, others in the know came into the Post Office and immediately asked "Who's last?".

Now the best part occurred. While I was milling, two of the ladies who had come in separately after me and knew each other struck up a conversation. They were so intently involved in trying to outdo each other's hand gestures that they failed to notice that a man, who was scheduled to get into the three person line just before one of these ladies, had gotten fed up with the wait and walked out the door. Fortunately I had already advanced to the on-deck position in the queue. Pandemonium broke out, nobody knew who followed the person behind me because of our 1 missing player!

Loud talking, more hand gestures and exasperated voices all took turns in trying to solve this crisis. After about two frantic minutes, a new pecking order was established and peace was restored without having to call the Carabinieri Headquarters next door.

When I finished paying my fine I asked the man if it I could buy one stamp to send a card to the USA. "EEMPOSSIBLE! Go to window #1."

Window #1 was only had one person in line and I was careful to make eye contact with everyone to make sure I didn't foolishly cut in again. I got nods all around, got in line and waited about five minutes for my turn.

The guy in front of me had about 10 manilla envelopes which he said all contained the same things and would all then weigh the same. The lady weighed all 10 envelopes SLOWLY. He paid for the stamps, left and I approached with my 1 card. Easy, right?

Nope, she now had to place two separate stamps on each of the 10 manilla envelopes, running out of one denomination in the process, disappearing for about five minutes before she found more stamps. The whole time I was at the window hoping that the people behind me realized the delay was not because of me but due to the previous guy who was long gone by now.

I bought my stamp, she put it on the card for me and I got out of there as fast as I could.

The Italian Postal System wears very cool uniforms but it is their office organization which will always make me smile.


Another thing I will miss is the weddings, although we will be having 2 sometime in the next year in our family thanks to Andy and Jenn and Mike and Vanessa.

In America, weddings are usually weekend affairs, here there are weddings 7 days a week. This couple exchanged their vows in Aci Castello today and were having their pictures taken at the Norman Castle which seems to be a very common photo op for newly weds.

I really like just coming across groups of very happy people, who doesn't love a good Disco-Mania wedding reception? 

Sicilian Graffiti

As I have commented before, graffiti in Sicily runs about 45% expressions of undying love, about 45% calcio (soccer) slogans and about 10% political in nature.

This is one of the 10% I noticed in Aci Trezza today. April 25the is an Italian National Holiday, Liberation Day. That is the day Italy was liberated from Fascist rule.

Apparently not everyone is down with this Holiday since it translates as "April 25th, Festival of the Traitors of Italy".

It's posters like these at the beach in Giardini-Naxos today that make me proud to have joined the Italian Communist Party in protest of our second Palermo Corsari game weeks ago!
One last thing I will miss is Linda who does "Massagees" on the beach at Giardini-Naxos for 10 Euros. She is from China and I think she is close to buying the necessary tickets to get the rest of her family out before the start of the Beijing Summer Olympics based on just the number of "Massagees" she has performed on me and Jason's dad, Jim!

Today's trip to the beach proved one thing, She's Getting Better!

I just pray she doesn't have to go to the Post Office to buy plane tickets for her family!

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