Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Run In With the Pisa Police

I was working in my apartment in Pisa, dressed in old jeans and a sweatshirt, when the door bell rang. No one was expected so I figured it was a service person wanting to get into the building. Just then my phone rang and at the same time, I heard the downstairs door close. Whoever it was had obviously been let in.  A couple of minutes later, however, the door bell rang again. The voice on the intercom  was muffled and was not anyone I knew.

"Scusi, non parlo l'italiano," I said with the worst Italian accent I could muster. The voice then asked for my landlady. "Roma, Roma," I said indicating that she was in Rome. "Okay," came the reply, "then we'll just tow the car." "Wait, wait, I'm coming down," I yelled in my suddenly-improved Italian.  

Along with the apartment, we're renting our landlady's car. Pisa has strict parking restrictions, but I knew the car was in a legal spot. I grabbed the car key and the keys to the apartment and ran down the 61 steps to the street level, still in my slippers. I opened the door to find a policeman astride a motorcycle.  He was a young, very nice-looking policeman, but he didn't look particularly happy to see me. (To read about the various police forces in Italy, click here.)

"Signora, why haven't you moved your car?"  I explained to him that my car was parked legally - I had until the third Saturday of the month to move it. It turns out, however,  that while it was legal when I parked there, in the meantime some construction work had begun. Apparently four days earlier a no parking sign had gone up and the workmen had put a note on my windshield. Out of about 100 parking spots on the street, mine was the only one affected. I tried to plead ignorance, but my policeman just shook his head, "Signora, even if you don't use your car, you must check it all the time.," he said.

"Am I going to get a ticket?" He looked at me very sadly and said yes, but we could talk about that later. First I must go immediately and move the car. He would meet me there. Immediately sounded serious so I padded the couple of blocks to my car in my slippers. When I arrived, two young workmen looked at me, shook their heads, wagged their fingers and said:  "We didn't want to call the police, but, Signora, you never came to move it. Don't you ever drive your car?"

"I only drive it on the weekends," I explained.  "Last weekend we went away with friends and they drove."  Their eyes perked up with interest. "Where did you go?"  "Ravenna," I said.  "Ah, Ravenna, bella, bella," they said approvingly. "Did you like it?" I started to reply when a policeman standing nearby more or less told me to get on with things.  

He looked more sympathetic than the last one so I decided to plead my case with him. "Am I going to get a ticket; the other policeman said...." "Signora, I am the other policeman, you just talked to me."  "Oh," I said, "you look much taller than before." "Signora, before I was sitting on my motorcycle!"  

"Do you have a driver's license," he asked. "Yes."  "With you?"  Actually, in my haste, I'd left it in the apartment. Now all three men shook their heads. The policeman told me to drive very carefully, but to move the car now.  When that was done, I was to meet him on the street in front of our apartment with my driver's license.  

Back at the apartment, I ran back up the 61 steps, got my license and thought for good measure, I would also bring down my passport so he'd know for sure that I was a foreigner and not at all well versed in Italian law. But as luck would have it, that very morning I had given my passport to my husband to make a copy because the one I had was  old and  dog eared.

I ran back down the 61 steps, opened the door and there was my policeman--looking short again on his motorcycle. "Michigan," he read as he turned over what was obviously in his opinion an insufficient-looking license, "is this all you have?" I handed him the copy of the passport. He held it by one corner as if it were contaminated  "Where's the original?"  I started to explain. "What's this on the back of your license," he interrupted. "Ah, that," I said with enthusiasm, "that gives my body to science in case I die in an accident."    

He didn't seem to care that I was unselfishly willing to further the cause of medical research. "Let me get this straight," he said. "This is the only driver's license you have; you have a passport, but it's in your husband's office. How long will you be in Italy?"  When I told him we were leaving in May, he seemed quite cheered.  He handed everything back to me and told me to be sure to check on the car at least every 48 hours.  "What about the ticket," I asked. 

"Let's forget about the ticket," he said. Then he smiled - a nice if somewhat condescending smile - and told me to enjoy Italy. 


For more photos, including Italian police encountered only from afar, click here.

Photos by Geraldine Calisti Kaylor

1 comment:

  1. Oh, Geraldine, how delightful! I will have to bookmark your site and read about your escapades. I am smiling--you made my day with your parking dilemmas. Thanks for visiting my blog and letting me know you are here. I love your header, incidentally. Just lovely visiting here. Ciao, bella!


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