I wish I were writing about a day where I completed some kind of bridge-related challenge, like to visit every bridge (the water-crossing type) in Torino or learn to play bridge (the card game type). But I’m afraid this is more mundane.
Tomorrow is a public holiday here in Italy. As many Italian people have told me — with pride or shame depending on their temperament — the Italian tradition with Tuesday and Thursday public holidays is to take the Monday/Friday off too, to make a four-day weekend. Many people I speak to are surprised that this seems completely normal to me and that many people in Australia do the same thing. They seem to think it’s a uniquely Italian tradition, that shows how clever/lazy (again depending on the speaker’s temperament) the Italian people are.
But the Italians do have one advantage over the Australians, which is that they have a word for this: ponte, literally, “bridge”.
This year, I decided to take a bridge day myself. Well, I called it a “work from home day”, to try and keep the hard-working-Anglo-Saxon myth alive, and I did indeed do an entire half-hour of work. But my main goal for the day was actually to pay my garbage collection bill.
Last year, I discovered that everyone in Torino has this bill due on the same day, and my bank account is somehow set up so I can’t pay it online. Last year, I spent a good three hours at the post office on the day it was due, waiting for my turn to pay it along with all the pensioners who didn’t use online bill paying either. This year, I was going to be smart and pay a few days in advance, and my bridge day seemed like a good opportunity.
I got off to a good start, going to the local post office in the morning, with several hours to spare before it closed. It wasn’t too busy, which was a pleasant surprise, and I figured I’d even get some grocery shopping done before coming home for lunch.
Until I discovered that my local post office, which looks exactly like a post office outside and in, down to the surly staff, and which offers various bill-paying services, is not a post office for the purpose of being able to pay one’s garbage collection bill.
“You’ll have to go to the office on via Bologna,” the lady at the counter told me.
After some lunch I decided to try again. Getting this bill paid was my one goal for the day, and even if I’d bought groceries and mopped the kitchen floor (for the first time in… ah, never mind) I’d still feel a bit like I’d wasted a day if I ended up having to miss more work to get this bill paid. So I headed to the central post office, which is one of the few that are open until the evening.
In the end, it was mostly painless. One hour in line (not bad!) and I kept myself amused by tallying the people who, among the fifty or so in the hall, weren’t wearing black, blue or grey coats:
- The lady with the gorgeously structured cherry-red felt coat. I imagined if she were my friend I’d be calling her regularly for fashion advice.
- The man with greying curly hair, in an olive green puffy jacket and complementary green-grey trainers.
- The twenty-ish woman with her head shaved on one side who wore a zebra-print hoodie.
- The small girl in a bright purple jacket and pink beanie, who toddled around and around the room, followed by her mother or father who were taking turns on toddler-chasing duty, until she wore herself out and fell asleep on her mum’s lap.