This post comes to you from a fuzzy-headed sick person, curled up on the sofa with a duvet and SATC re-runs on Comedy Central. It’s that time of year again, except that it feels like about 5 minutes since the last time it was that time of year….
Having moved house recently, I have had to go through the pain-staking task (even more painful than my tonsils) of registering with a new doctor and managing a rather bitchy email conversation with the HR department at work. One of the very many bureaucratic hoops that needs to be jumped through in order for daily life to go on in many Italian companies involves an obligatory sick-note for even a single day of illness. This is a pain in the ass if you have, say, a headache, or you ate a bad shrimp, as even if you don’t need medical attention you are required to drag yourself to the doctor’s office and wait in line just to get a note. As I’ve probably mentioned on this blog before, doctors in Italy don’t have receptionists or secretaries and don’t work in surgeries, so the doctor’s office is literally just that. If you call you often don’t get an answer as it is the – always busy - doctor himself who mans the phone and in many cases (as with mine) there is no appointment system. Your only choice is to turn up and hope - even if all you need is a note because that bad shrimp kept you away from the office for a day….
Then there’s the three day rule. If you’re absent for 3 days or more, you need a special note, a copy of which you are obliged to post to the National Insurance office ON THE SECOND DAY of your illness. No exceptions. So, imagine that bad shrimp has you running to the bathroom for 2 days straight. On the first day you have to drag yourself to the doctor’s and hold your stomach while you wait in line with a room full of old ladies, and on day two you have to do the same at the nearest Post Office. If you live in a small village like me, you’ll probably have the same group of old ladies for company on both days. Arriving in the waiting room yesterday evening 15 minutes before the doctor herself was due to arrive, I opened the door to be greeted by 8 pairs of elderly eyes, including my next door neighbour. Seeing me enter, she looked delighted that she would be the bringer of good gossip, enquiring sweetly “Anche Lei sta male?” “Are you ill too?”. I exchanged the usual Italian pleasantries with her and the others, before taking my seat and leaving them to natter away in dialect about the weather, feeling quite relieved that I couldn’t take part even if I wanted to as Pavian dialect is a total mystery to me. Half an hour later the doctor still hadn’t arrived and the smell of unwashed old person was starting to make me feel nauseous, so I gave up and went back to my sofa. I discovered today that I am a day late in sending the medical certificate to INPS, which apparently means the end of the world is nigh. My fault entirely of course, for not jumping through those hoops….