In July a friend sent us, in Italy, a CD of photographs he had taken during his visit the month before. In August he received notification that he had not filled out the customs form in a manner satisfactory to the Italian authorities (evidently ‘CD Photos’ was not specific enough). In early October the CD arrived back at his home in Maryland, having enjoyed two Atlantic crossings. In November we received it here in Arizona, thanks to the always-reliable US Postal Service and a helpful friend.
The Italian mail service is a puzzle to us. As previously noted, the Post Office serves as an immigration office, bill-paying office and bank as well as a mover of mail pieces, so that complicates everything. And, in fact, mail service in Italy has improved dramatically in just the few years we’ve lived there. Depending on the time of year and the type of mail sent, something sent from Italy can actually arrive in the US in five days, and vice versa. “Depending” is the operative word, however. Our absentee ballots for the presidential election were sent twice from Arizona. The first mailing arrived four weeks after being sent, the second arrived on Nov. 5th. Perhaps the larger size of the envelopes held things up. A simple letter or post card will move quickly, if it’s not August or December. Anything outside that norm will take much longer and will likely have been opened and mulled over by mysterious postal functionaries before being sent on.
The historical unreliability of the postal service has kept its usage to a minimum. Mail order of anything is in its infancy in Italy. Amazon, for instance, has no Italian presence though it is big in Great Britain, Japan, Austria, Spain, Germany, China, etc. China, for heaven’s sake, but not Italy.
The shock, though, was to come back to the States this year and begin picking up our daily mail. What a sea of nonsense and waste! Newspapers and flyers we don’t want, ads for things we’ve never heard of, pleas for money from unknown agencies, offers for health insurance, medical care, legal counsel and catalogs – who dreams up all those catalogs? – it all surges into our little post box in waves. And as quickly as it arrives it is sent to the recycle bin whence it will, presumably, become what it was from the get-go: toilet paper.
Perhaps somewhere there is a happy medium, something between the tsunami of junk that washes up on our Arizona shores daily, in which a friend’s actual hand-addressed envelope was almost lost, and the barren desert of Italian mail which arrives once or twice a week and contains only the alarming statements of mortgage rate increases the bank sends monthly, startling bills from the water company or irritating offers from the despicable Sky television (how many soccer stations does one household need??). I would like to live in that unknown place, or at least take a look at their commemorative stamps.