February 19, 2008

Mission impossible

Well, I did it. The forms have arrived, to be properly completed by our idraulico di fiducia (or family plumber), stamped, signed and returned. Then we will receive a mysterious phone call to set up a time for its arrival -- the Contatore (or gas meter) for a small apartment we are renovating to re-rent or sell. The saga of the gas line is long and involved with a bit of intrigue, insurmontable problems, heart-stopping miracles and finally an end in sight.

I got to play an important role in this play, "the ENI connection" with the mission impossible of getting a contatore hooked up once the line had been installed. For my coaching certification, I had participated in a "power tools" class on "game vs. significance" so I thought I would try this tool on myself and invent a game to keep me from getting frustrated and angry (and placing lots of "significance" on the whole thing).

I dutifully signed the "contract proposal" that had arrived by post and sent it off with a 249 euro payment before calling the 800 number as instructed.

call n. 1: "your contract proposal is not registered." She rummaged around, while I stayed on hold answering emails, before throwing up her hands and asking me to call back later -- the computer terminal was down.

call n. 2: very polite and helpful, listened to my story, and discovered that the proposed work had already been executed (without our approval and prior payment as required), but to make a request for the contatore she would need a PDR number (punto di riferimento). After further discussion about where I might find that number, I said I would call back.

Then the game started: how many calls would it take to make it happen? Every call was a point and if I get to 10, I will treat myself to an extravagant massage. 8, a lunch out with a friend, 6, leisurely coffee after the pool and so. Now I could enjoy the calls -- almost hoping they wouldn't end!

call. n. 3: to the head of the workmen to ask him to check for a little tag at the end of the gas line in the little box with ten numbers (the PDR) and call me back:

call n. 4: I called him back -- oops, so sorry but he had forgotten, tomorrow

call n. 5: There is a little yellow tag, but it only has six numbers -- a mystery. I take down the numbers anyway.

call n. 6: (wow -- a leisurely coffee earned!): "The numbers I read off were clearly NOT the PDR and she COULD NOT place the request for the contatore without these numbers."

so I got in the car -- 55 minutes of traffic(up the Cassia)and four flights later, all I could find was a yellow tag with six numbers. But I learned that NO ONE in the ENTIRE building had managed to get a contatore, although the gas line was clearly there. I was in good company and going for the lunch.

call. n. 7: to the building administratore -- maybe she would know something about the PDR, she had even been present the day the gas line was brought up to our apartment. I left a message.

call n 8: I left another message

call n. 9: I left a third message.

But I got a call back from her secretary who took notes and very efficiently called back later with a 20 number and letter sequence -- clearly not the ten number PDR but I thanked her anyway.

call n. 10: One last try to the ENI 800 number. The woman was kind and listened carefully to my story. Then she opened up our file and VoilĂ  -- there was the PDR. Turns out it had always been there, for any of the previous diligent call center employees to uncover. She filled out the contatore request and here we are, happily filling out forms with lots of stamps and signatures.

Mission accomplished (or almost) and to top it off -- I get to have an extravagant massage!

What's the lesson to all this -- with a little pazienza and just enough calls, someone will figure it out.

a domani,


Jennifer said...

Congratulations!! And enjoy your massage. You've certainly earned it.

I've been there too and it's frustrating (not the massage - the jumping through hoops to get utility service). Then we moved to an area that has one municipal utilities company that covers everything (natural gas, electricity, water) as an alternative to the big Italian names. I couldn't be happier! My hope is that the rest of them catch up at some point.

Romerican said...

Congrats! I'm impressed by how calm & cool you are about it all... For me, it's hard to swallow the fact that something so simple becomes so complicated in Italy. Why does so much time & energy have to be wasted to get something basic done? Why can't a painfully inefficient system be changed for the benefit of ALL, not just this frustrated American? I used to enjoy these challenges when I first moved to Italy, it was like a game, an accomplishment to try and get something simple done- like having a phone line installed... but these things no longer amuse me, they frustrate & annoy me because not only am I wasting obscene amounts of time, but I'm also in a place where the cost of living is comparable to USA or other efficient European countries, yet I reap none of the benefits... Essentially, I think that's what bothers me most. If this were to happen in India, I'd shrug it off... but the cost of living in India is proportional to what you get in return in services. This isn't so in Italy, that's the problem!

Rob said...

Enjoy your massage! Nice to turn a potentially frustrating experience over into something so positive!

I must say the chaos and inefficiency is something I almost love about Italy - it reminds me so much of home. Probably why I feel so at home when I am in Italy...

sergio polano said...


Secret Italy said...

Only ten calls? Things are improving...