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Patience is a virtue,
Posess it if you can.
It’s always found in woman
And seldom found in man.

My aged granny taught me that little bit of doggerel about a hundred years ago.

Patience.  If you are dreaming about moving to Italy, or even just having a visit here, it is a virtue you might want to cultivate.  One must wait in lines for everything here, from the Post Office to the Train Station Ticket Counter (allow extra time if you need to purchase train tickets at the station) to, always and ever, the food stores.  I’m always amazed at how patient everyone is as they shuffle slowly forward in whatever line they’re in.  Once a friend came late for tea, telling us that she had had to wait an hour at the Post Office.  An hour.

This is something that’s hard for Americans to wrap their heads around.  If there are more than three or four people ahead of us at the supermarket we become restive – quick! Open another register!

But with a slight attitude shift the lines and the waiting become rather fun.  First, they give a great opportunity for people watching.  Second, they give you the chance to remember the thing you forgot to get (if you’re at the market).  Third, they give the time to practice what you need to say in Italian (at the Post Office).  If you’re into meditation, the line is a great place to zone out and ommm for a while.

Also, the take-a-number system employed by many stores, offices and (hallelujah!) the Post Office now ensures that people are served in the order in which they arrived… or at least in the order in which they thought to take a ticket.  There’s something demoralizing, however, in taking a ticket at the deli counter and realizing that there are 18 people ahead of you.  But it’s better than the unchecked chaos that used to reign.

At the top is a photo of all the people waiting to check out at a nearby Ipercoop.  Granted it was a Sunday, so the store was quite crowded.  Che casino! as they say here – what a mess.  There were trolleys every which way, people with hand baskets and strollers trying to navigate through the lines, other people trying to sneak into the middle of a line.  What an adventure.  The postures of the women in the foreground tell the whole story: these are not people who are moving smartly along; these are people who are waiting.  What I said above about the waiting being fun?  I lied.  It really isn’t all that much fun, especially if it drags on for 20 minutes, as in the picture above.

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