Stet by Ria Bacon

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Italy's finest

Carabinieri are regularly voted to be the sexiest professionals in Italy, which compensates for their traditional image of being the stupidest professionals in the country. I’ve dealt with them only twice in two years, the first when I had to make a declaration saying I’d lost my building pass for work (turned up in my bag a few days later). The carabiniere on duty could type very well with two fingers and the foreign passport didn’t faze him. He rubbed the pages, wiggled the hologram under the desklamp, photocopied the relevant pages, input the data, wrote it all out again by hand, all so smoothly that I was in and out in little over an hour.

The second encounter was when I was driving back from the school run, 200 metres from home, in a borrowed car for which I had no papers and without my driver’s licence. I had a premonition that they would pull me over for a spot check. It was destiny. The tallest officer saluted me and asked for my papers. I started jabbering (Io ... inglese ... molto stupido) in such an obviously and genuinely pathetic way that he let me off. Woo-hoo!

It’s actually quite rare to see carabinieri doing roadside checks; that’s mainly done by the infamous tax brigade. I have only heard stories of their awesome powers, how they can rip your car apart, empty all the contents on the street and demand to see receipts for every item. In our car there are two sets of armbands still inflated from summer, a spiderman ball, a grubby cloth for wiping the windows, sweetie wrappers, A-to-Zeds for Rome and Amsterdam, and and 3,000 E’s in the bodywork. (Well, I had to make it a bit interesting.) No receipts for any of it. Obviously we’re undermining confidence in the rigour and probity of the Italian tax system (*stifled snigger*) by not being able to prove we paid VAT on the grubby cloth. Maybe I’ll never get pulled over by them, not until I really have the E-shipment of course.

This post was triggered by a series of sirens that seemed to be close enough to drive through the kitchen. It made me think of how a carabiniere starts the day. Step into the car, adjust the mirrors so you can check your hair and three-quarter profile at any moment. Place your hat on the mini hat rack, bizarrely called a handbrake. Put on the siren and the flashing lights and off you speed to the tabacchi for coffee and doughnuts! Ciao Mario!

Let's do it to them before myummm yum does no one want that doughnut? Mmmm ...
As part of a recent efficiency initiative, our local boys in blue now skip going to the police station and head straight for the cafe for their morning briefing. Mouse-over the photo to eavesdrop ...