In the continuing struggle that is my pre-natal care, I had an appointment with the midwife this morning. Today’s goal, blood tests. Testing what? Who knows. But this much is clear: our appointment was for 9am. The Birth Center is across town, approximately a 45-minute trip. So Paul and I got up early and hustled down there. Factoring in Italian Time we figured on a 15-minute delay before we’d see the pros in action. Oh how we underestimated. Thirty-five minutes later, the junior midwife arrived. After a brief apology, my blood was drawn and the bill payed. The entire process took approximately seven minutes.
Unfortunately, the second goal of the meeting was to discuss their payment process with the senior midwife who arrived at 9:40, after the receptionist called to remind her. Fantastic. Poor Paul headed into her office to talk turkey, for ten minutes. Next we were off to meet a man about a car so the chart making, insurance reimbursement and penny counting was brought to an abrupt end.
I’d arranged for us to see (and hopefully drive) a Mercedes A180 for sale through the Yahoo! online group for ex-pats; the owner does not speak English but a lovely friend of his (who also offered her services to us as a future babysitter) had agreed to be there as interpreter.
Ten minutes of waddling got us to FAO, unfortunately we were ten minutes late. First we searched the parking lot. No sign of them. As the minutes ticked by, we became later and later. Beginning to worry, we wondered if our tardiness caused the problem or was this the second meeting that would run more than half an hour late today? Changing location, we were finally approached out front by a man in a helmet and a petite brunette. Apparently they were just about to leave (the only two Italians not on Italian Time?) when they “saw the belly” and came over…to tell us the bad news. Due to something about a co-worker’s issue with opening up the bank where he works, the man was unable to drive the car into the city today. Instead he rode his scooter, which is not a gold Mercedes, nor for sale. They’d come in person to apologize–and to mention that they know a friend of a friend.
Our second brief apology inside of an hour and social connection made, here’s how we left it: Paul will meet them again tonight while I’m at bible study.
Hoping the day improves with time.
Remember the Great Apartment Search? Well it’s pesky cousin, the Car Quest, has now become part of our lives. Again, we’re presented with foreseeable challenges. Such as, where to find a car in Rome. Online? At a dealership? From outgoing FAO employees? The language barrier is nothing new but related, and perhaps more important in this case, there’s something cultural as well. I’ve been told many times that in order to get anything done in Italy we need someone who really speaks the language. Always said with a nod and knowing wink. However, we have none of the above so we’ll just do the best we can. Carry on.
So I’ve looked online: eBay Italy, the FAO Co-op website, Wanted In Rome and the VCN group on Yahoo! where hundreds of ex-pats gather daily to exchange questions and answers about Rome, rent apartments and most of all, sell Ikea furniture to each other. All moderately helpful. Between surfing the web and scouring the streets, we’ve seen lots of cars that seem like they’d work, at least in theory. Time to take it to the next level.
With a few models in mind, we rented a Volvo this weekend and headed for the strip of dealerships outside of town. (Aren’t they always lumped together, like huge, slightly sad parking lots? Turns out this is the case in Italy as well.) The idea was to get serious about researching our options: How much does a Toyota Corolla cost here? Can the stroller fit? Would a 1.4 engine really feel like a tin can on wheels? However, Saturday turned out to be a secret holiday in Italy. All of the dealerships were closed.
No problem, we quickly adjusted our expectations. Saturday was now for recon. We found several promising locations and even saved them into the GPS for easy navigation the next day. On Sunday–with maps, an atlas, the aforementioned GPS, notebooks and camera in hand–we made it to a grand total of one dealership (Opel) before they closed for the day. Everything else had been locked up tight all weekend. To recap, the sum total of our accomplishments in the last forty-eight hours was…sitting inside two parked cars. Sigh.
In the meantime, many discussions have occurred between Paul and I. Some are about makes and models. A five-door, hatchback would be ideal, that much we agree on. (I admit that ever since I’ve seen the cute little Mercedes wagons over here, I’m smitten. But it’s not practical to spend so much for a car in a place where we don’t plan to stay. Wouldn’t it be better to save our pennies for a nice car once we move home? I suppose. Ho-hum.) Other talks cover attitude and outlook. For example, “What’s our price range?” Or “How about that one?” However, “Lots of people get by with a two-door” didn’t go over well. Especially to a woman about to have a baby and already schooled in the easiest/most difficult way to transport an 80-pound golden retriever. There are hormones involved. With that said, our biggest challenge might be compromising; I’d like a rig with room for our growing family and Paul hopes for something small enough to park on the street. Both legit but…
It’s not lost on me that Paul and I are still new at this marriage thing. I love the companionship and romance. But the part where another person is actually expecting to weigh in on every decision is, well, a bit much isn’t it? Laugh, laugh. Go ahead. I wouldn’t blame anyone for chuckling at our status as newcomers but just the same, it’s an adjustment.
In the end, I wonder if we’ll just rent cars as we need them. They speak English at Avis and there’s no winking required.