Tuesday, July 19, 2005


Our friend Judith called us a few weeks ago to ask if we’d like to go to Rome with her for the day. She needed to visit the embassy there in order to initiate her Social Security payments.

I’ve had two experiences with the U.S. Embassy in Rome…one terrible and one good. The good experience involved the renewal of my passport by mail last summer. When I had questions I was able to call and talk to a real person who was very helpful, and in the end the new passport arrived very quickly.

The bad experience dates back several years to the time I lost my purse on a train. The good news is that the purse was found and turned in at the nest stop, Naples. The bad news is that apparently the people in Naples didn’t document what they did with my purse, and trying to track it down proved quite a challenge.

Eventually the lady who owned the hotel where we stayed located my purse at a Rome police station…..something the embassy couldn’t be bothered to do. I eventually emailed all the contact information to the Rome Embassy and after a long wait they mailed the purse back to me…..after I sent them the money to cover the postage. The whole experience left me very disappointed with the Embassy.

I guess bureaucracy is bureaucracy no matter where you go, but when you add Italians into the mix, things can really get tricky. There seems to be no sense of urgency for any Italian until they get into a car. Even when I told the (Italian) woman at the Embassy that my purse had been turned in, she advised me that it would just be easier to get a new passport! Oh yeah…what an easy process…..birth certificates, pictures, and don’t forget about the fees! Sheesh!

So back to the story……..we weren’t able to go to Rome with Judith because we just couldn’t get the train schedules to coordinate. I recently emailed her to find out how the trip went, and was (somewhat) surprised when she told me that what should have been a thirty minute stop at the Embassy turned into three hours!

Apparently in their over-zealous and misguided attempts to make the Embassy safe, women are no longer allowed to bring their purses into the Embassy. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been able to get by with just a wallet in my pocket like men do! And aside from that, if I were going to spend the day in Rome I’d probably take a very LARGE purse or backpack so that I would have a place to put things I’d bought.

When Judith asked the guard what she should do with her purse he suggested giving it to a passer-by or leaving it on the sidewalk. Huh?! And please understand, they didn’t even want to inspect her purse….it could have been an empty bag, but she was NOT allowed to bring it in. What world are these people living in? And who makes these ridiculous rules? Oh yeah, probably the same people who decided that nail clippers were deadly weapons. I wish I knew where to direct a complaint about this unreasonable and completely illogical policy. And these are the people we have to turn to when we have a problem……and they’re supposed to be on our side……

Eventually Judith left her purse with the concierge at a local hotel, but that’s certainly not a part of their job, especially when you’re not even a guest at the hotel! I guess this is an opportunity for some industrious person to make some money by guaranteeing the safe-keeping of purses and back-packs just outside the US Embassy. Maybe the Hard Rock Café across the street could help….


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