When talking about getting our Permesso di Soggiorno, I didn’t mention fingerprinting, and I do just happen to have a fingerprint story.
About a month after you apply each time for your Permesso, you get a text message on your phone telling you the time and date to show up to be fingerprinted. For your initial Permesso, it’s a much more thorough procedure than for the renewals. They start with the modern digital “just put one finger at a time on this little glass panel” method. However, I’m not sure they truly trust this because you also have to go through the “black ink all over your hand that will also somehow get on your clothes no matter how careful you are” process. Thereafter, it’s only the digital way.
So I went through both for my first Permesso in 2008, then just the digital for my first renewal in 2009. Smooth sailing. This brings us to last year’s renewal.
Alan went before me, without a hitch. Then came my turn. The very nice man behind the counter had me put each right hand finger on the glass, then each from the left hand. Then a few random fingers from the right hand. Then he conferred with the very nice woman behind the counter. Then a few more fingers. Then more conferring. They asked me to rub cream on my hands. Then more random fingers accompanied by puzzled frowns.
Turns out I don’t have any fingerprints. I had them in 2009, but somehow in the interim, they disappeared.
I suggested that the machine might not be working, but since Alan had just been successful, they pooh-poohed that idea. Someone suggested this condition was brought on by too much dishwashing and scrubbing — the very thought of which made Alan laugh to the point where I thought he’d need oxygen. And then the man — who up until that second had always been referred to as “the very nice man” — came up with his final possibility: vecchia. In other words — old. I thought the (still) very nice woman behind the counter was going to strangle him. Though I don’t understand a lot of Italian, even I got the message that she was strongly suggesting that he was an asshole for being so rude, and I have to say that he knew that she was right. In fact, he actually apologized to me….something that is very unItalian. He sheepishly said he would forward my application WITHOUT fingerprints, and he assured me that the higher authorities in Rome would understand.
I wasn’t too sure about this. It was one thing for him to be embarrassed about his faux pas and let me slide through fingerprintless, but the other government officials had no such embarrassment in their past to make them bend the rules a bit. So I had more than just a little trepidation when I finally went to pick up my Permesso.
The 21st Century procedure at our Questura is as follows: the very nice lady gets your thick manila file folder from the back table, looks you in the eyes to compare your passport and previous Permesso with the new one, cuts up the old with scissors, and hands the thick manila file folder over to the official Permesso distributor at the next counter (who, you might remember from the blog 2 weeks ago, is ONLY there Tuesday and Thursday mornings). As a token to modern technology, he then makes you go through the digital process of putting your fingers on the glass again as one last final proof that you are who you say you are. Needless to say – Alan was done in 60 seconds. Then it was my turn. The very nice woman looked at me, and I noted a flicker of recognition. She then quickly handed my file to the official Distributor, but as she did, she whispered something in his ear. He took my new Permesso out of the folder and, without even glancing my way, immediately handed it right over the counter in one smooth motion. Time elapsed: 20 seconds.
So maybe there’s something good about being fingerprint-challenged after all. I have several friends who have suggested that this might be the perfect time to turn to a life of crime to augment my ever-dwindling funds, but in truth, it’s enough for me to just be able to take a bit of smug self-satisfaction in knowing that FINALLY something connected with Italy’s bureaucracy was quicker for me than for Alan.