Today we went to the Immigration Office in Via Epomeo in the Soccavo district. We went there because we had received a blue postcard in October, asking us to come. We were invited. I called in October to find out what it was about, what papers we should bring, etc. and the guy on the other end of the line said, "What's it about?" I said that the card didn't specify, so he said, "How should I know? Bring everything you have." This put us off going, of course, and then we went to NYC and then it was Xmas, New Year's, Epiphany, flu season, and so on.
So I coaxed The Husband into going today. Two different gas station attendants pointed us in the correct direction of the office and we still had to turn around and go up a one-way street the wrong way. Nevertheless, we arrived, parked in front of several miraculously empty dumpsters, and went inside. The first man we asked for information from told us to ask someone who knew better. (The Husband had asked him, "You are with the Comune, right?" "Si." Still, he didn't know jackshit). The second man we asked told us to go to the first floor, last door on the left. We took the stairs. At the top of the stairs we saw a door marked Immigration Office, so we went in there. We showed our postcard to a guy seated at a desk in what looked like a recently rented office -- bare and in shambles (not at all recently rented, just bare and in shambles) -- and he said, "I didn't invite you here. Go to the office down the hall on the left." So far, everyone was male, graying or balding, wearing sweater vests, and CRANKY.
At the office at the end of the hall on the left we were met by Roberto, a burly man (graying, sweater vest though of fleece), who said, "Vi voglio bene ma che ci fate qui?" ("I love you, but what are you doing here?"). We showed him the card and he found our file right away. Great sign! Right?
Wrong. After some chitchat about Italy being a fifth world (Robero's words) country in terms of services and first world in terms of taxes, Roberto explained...well, he explained...I mean...he said,
I HAVE NO FRICKIN IDEA WHAT HE SAID! Not because I didn't understand the half-Italian, half-Neapolitan he was speaking, but because he never said anything. After many questions put by me and unanswered by Roberto, a signora came in to help. She was nice and pleasant-looking, but she was no help either. Both Roberto and La Signora were evidently on our side, wanted to help, but their hands were tied because of Le Veline (Roberto's words, remember the TV dancing girls? That's what he calls the two women above him who are responsible for our as-yet-undefined bureaucratic mess). Le Veline were the ones making the mess, not the officials at the Comune di Chiaia (our comune, where La Bimba was born), and certainly not Roberto and La Signora.
I asked very clearly, "What exactly is the problem? Why were we called here? I still don't understand what we are doing here." Finally, as we left the building (with an appointment to return on Monday, so stay tuned), The Husband explained:
I don't know if you, fair readership, gentle, innocent, all-trusting, law-abiding readership will be able to handle this explanation The Husband gave according to the explanation given to him by La Signora.
If you are squeamish about the creative logic of Italians, do not read on. Rent a gory horror flick instead.
Okay. Deep Breath. Here goes.
La Bimba was born in Naples. Her birth was recorded in Naples. She has an Italian passport. The fact that she is my daughter and The Husband's daughter is on record. She is an Italian citizen by birth. However, when she was born, I was still officially a resident of New York. Thus, her birth was recorded as "occasionale" (in bureaucratese this means something like, "oops, an American had a baby on Italian soil"). I did not become an official resident of Naples until 14 months after her birth and since the baby follows the mommy, bureaucratically speaking, the Comune di Chiaia recorded her as having her residence in NY. From the Italian perspective, La Bimba was born in Naples and then took the next Alitalia flight to NY and has lived there ever since. She never "followed me" back to Naples.
What does this mean? It should mean that all we have to do is declare that she lives with us in Naples. Then the Comune will change her residency and basta così. Simple. Logical. A tiny glitch in the bureaucratic chain. But because of Le Veline, according to Roberto and La Signora, we can't do that because Le Veline say that La Bimba has to IMMIGRATE TO ITALY.
I'm sorry, I need to repeat that with the requisite caps.
LA BIMBA IS AN ITALIAN CITIZEN WITH AN ITALIAN PASSPORT AND THERE ARE TWO STRONZE IN THE IMMIGRATION OFFICE IN NAPLES WHO ARE SAYING SHE HAS TO IMMIGRATE TO ITALY.
This is by far and away the apex, the tops, the Coliseum of Italian bureaucratic insanity. I have never heard of anything so jaw-droppingly absurd in my life. I am hoping for a serious shakedown with Le Veline on Monday. I am banking on jumping up and down on their desks, scattering their crumbling files hither and thither, and making such a scene that the crumbling, shabby, everyone-smoking-at-their-desks Comune on Via Epomeo kick back over espressos in tiny plastic cups, the frosted tin foil pieces blowing out the window, and remember the time L'Americana threw a hissy fit in the office of Le Veline.
I'll probably let The Husband do the talking.
We are doing this so that everything is regolare when we leave. Roberto's advice, "Leave now. Go to the US," said only with a hand gesture.
I will miss this, oh yes, very much.