The concept of the "queue"

Night 1
Arriving back in Bologna today was fairly exciting with a hint of homesickness.

At this point, how much time have I spent in Italy over my lifetime, and especially over the last 4 years of my life? A heck of a lot.  That being said, this is not my first encounter with the Italian version of a line.  Actually, the theory behind a line or a queue makes so much sense in America, and its concept is generally obeyed or else you will be called out on it.  Even after spending so much time in Italy, I still haven't adapted to the Italian version of a line, which in fact, is no line at all.  Whether it's at the line in the post office, in the grocery store, getting on to a train, buying a ticket, or hailing a cab, their tactics are clear, they do not care what "rules" the concept of a queue puts in place, they just believe they are entitled to cut the line and hope that no one refutes.  Generally no one does because here it has been accepted that this is the proper line etiquette -- an essential free for all-- but as an American in Italy, I have not quite come to terms with this, generally I let the occasional cutter slide by and start to be more aggressive in my own stance in line, but never have I confronted an Italian cutter.  Until Today. Today, was that day.

I left my house Monday at 2:30 pm to visit my grandmother and grab dinner with my parents before I caught my 8:15 flight to Bologna.  Upon picking up my mom at her office building, I checked my flight status and realized that it had been delayed till an 11:00pm departure time.  Already stressed, we did the necessary re booking of my connection flight, and were feeling good that I might not have to show up at the airport until 2 hours before the new departure time.  However, on the phone we were told that regardless of the delay, I needed to present myself at check in as if the plane was taking off at it's original 8:15 scheduled flight.  Great... After a lovely dinner at Row 34 (I recommend), we arrived at the airport at 6:15 where I would then have to wait 4 hours until boarding time... ridiculous.  Needless to say I wasn't thrilled with my flight plans, the only icing on the cake was that the plane was nearly empty, so I got a whole row of 4 seats to myself to lounge back in. My flight ended up arriving in Munich only 10 minutes later than my original connection flight, but nonetheless, I had missed it, so now had to wait 3 more hours in the Munich airport.  That being said, right when I stepped onto Bolognese soil, I was ready to book it home as quickly as possible, so after I grabbed my luggage I made SURE to weave in and out of the people ahead of me, aware that they would most likely be heading to the taxi line.

This is where my issue occurred.

When I walked up to the queue there were three taxis, but they were all currently being filled with passengers, so I decided to stay at the top of the queue where I knew the next taxi would drive all the way up to... aka the line. However, there are no rails, or guidelines for this "line", only a sign at the origin of the line.  So, two women proceed to walk past me, hoping to secretly create them as the "first" in line, and soon after the rush of people follows, everyone just lined on the curb with intent to be the first one in whichever cab arrived.  I knew this was going to be the case so I started going over some lines in Italian in my head, because after my long journey I was not ready to be taken advantage of line misuse. Normally, if I hadn't just traveled for 18 hours I would have found this situation comical and would not have said anything, but at this point I realized this was just one of those few experiences where I say in my head "This wouldn't happen in America".  Yes, cutting does occur at home, but it is easily dealt with, people generally owe up to it, and it does not happen as frequently as it does in Italy.  Naturally, I knew I had no chance against these two middle aged women, but I knew I would feel like I had been stepped on if I did not at least attempt to get in the cab that was rightfully mine.

So, as the cab approached the queue I stepped off the sidewalk ready to defend my position.  The women were quickly at my side ready to say they were the first in line. I used my best Italian to politely say I was first in line and they had blatantly saw me waiting first as they walked past me. However, it was two versus one.  As I was laying my case, one woman was arguing back at me, the second tried to get in the cab that pulled up behind the first, but she was already out beat by the next ferocious Italians, so upon her return to see me and her travel companion fighting, she simply opened the cab door and started putting her stuff in.  I tried to hold my own, but failed, and then realized that I also failed at getting the next 3 cabs because I was too busy arguing. I thanked them for making me not the first in line, but effectively one of the last, and stormed off to hold my ground.  Some spectators saw the scene, and a woman kindly said I would be next in line, and a man helped me get my stuff to the next cab that came a few minutes later.

So there is that! My first Italian yelling fight of the semester.  I am always happy for myself after I manage to hold my own in Italian (for the most part).  And that is just a small example of why I cannot foresee myself living permanently in this beautiful country.

The ironic part about the line question though, is that it's either too disorganized, or too organized.  For example, they have ticket numbers, like you would get at the cold cut counter in a grocery store in the most random places of business here.  And unless you know that the mass of people waiting in line at the post office, or in the questura, or at the registrars office are all holding tickets that secure their place in line, you could be waiting for hours in total awe without knowing you were supposed to pull a ticket when you entered the room.  Italy is just so entertaining like this.  Luckily, most of the time I find it humorous when I find myself in these situations that are so different than the United States that I can appreciate the lack of efficiency, but other times, like after a 15 hour flight... no thank you!

Anyways, after I did secure MY cab, which happened to be an unnecessary 8 person van, I arrived home to my wonderfully clean apartment (THANK YOU ZOE), vented to Tim and my family, got organized, then set out to enjoy beautiful Bologna, and do one of my favorite things... food shopping!

So now here I am! Three semesters of my graduate education complete, one to go, including three new courses and a thesis.  One wonderful semester left in this beautiful city.  I can't really believe it because right now I'm still undergoing the homesickness of transitioning between my two very different lives.  I hope that I don't hold myself back this semester. I hope I do the right combination of studying, grabbing coffee with friends, aperitivos and travelling (inside and outside of Italy).  I only have one semester left where I am really not tied to much except three classes and a thesis.  Ce la faccio. I can do it.  And I can have fun doing it.  I can make the most of this experience.  I know I'll always be able to do more and more, but I think I am capable of leaving here in July or August or whenever, knowing that I had argued with real Italians like a real Italian, learned so much in International Relations, got to know myself better, overcame some very difficult transitions and assimilation in a foreign culture, got to be closer with my family even though for most of the time I'm miles and miles away, sustained a strong relationship, made great friends, ate great food, drank good wine (great is probably an understatement for the last two clauses), visited countless new places, ran a marathon, skied the Alps, etc. etc. and I can't emphasize it enough, but I learned, I simply learned, SO MUCH, on so many accounts. And the fact that I can already write this list out means that I have basically already accomplished all of that, I'm sure I will be able to add a few more to the list come September (Like climb the asinelli tower, knock on wood), but even as I stand now, I am so far past the person I was when I graduated from Union College a year and a half ago, and it is amazing.  I couldn't ask for more!

So now what...? Off to continue the list! Off to study for an exam I have lingering over me from the fall, and off to start REALLY working on my thesis... but don't worry, I already have a few trips planned, so no hard feelings in returning quickly to my studies (not too many anyways!)

Alla prossima cari!