On Wednesay, we returned our Censimento to the office at the Comune. The Italian census is much different than the US version.
The Italian census is sixty-two pages long. Filling it out is required by law. Not doing so is punishable by a fine. If you’re not lucky enough to have a form with a number on it to enter into the online site, you must complete it by hand.
We were not lucky. Mirella, in the anagrafe office, was going to sit with us and fill it out for us, but I convinced her it’d be a good learning experience. I think. What I actually said, in my patented half-assed Italian was, “No, no. We. For me to learn.” She nodded vigorously, so either she was in agreement or just excited that we hadn’t given her more work to do. Va be’.
We completed the task last weekend at the bar in San Benedetto, every Italian there asking why we weren't doing it online when I'd read out a word I didn't know and wasn't in my dictionary.
From what I remember about the US census, it had two or three questions. Basically, what’s your address, how many people live at your adress? Maybe also how long have you lived there and how old are you?
The Italian version includes the following:
Place of birth
Whether you rent or own your home
Whether you live in a house, camper or “other”, if it's owned or rented and whether the owner is a physical person or not.
Whether this abode has water. If so, is it potable?
Whether or not you have heat. If so, what type? Gas? Direct line or refillable tank? Wood fire?
The area of your house in square meters.
Number of rooms excluding bathrooms and kitchens.
How many bathrooms?
Do you have a toilet? If so, how many?
Whether or not you have a telephone landline. Internet service?
How many cel phones?
Are you an Italian citizen? If so, from birth, marriage or another?
If you are not an Italian citizen, of what country are you a citizen or are you “stateless”? And, again, where were you born? (Every Italian form asks this questions multiple times, in multiple places, as though if they ask it often enough, they may catch you in a lie).
With the census, it's as though they don’t just want to compile a list of how many people there are and where, but to also create the most complete marketing database of Italians on the planet.
Now, the packet includes a return envelope, but you’re not actually supposed to drop it in the post. This makes sense, because you are in Italy, because the post office didn’t send it to you in the first place, as they were supposed to do, but you got it on your second visit to the Comune after being told if it didn’t come in the mail, someone would bring it to your door and they didn’t and because of this:
When Sante handed it to us, we were instructed to bring it back before 20 November.
Up on the second floor was an office with two women, two computers and two townspeople poring over their booklets. The waiting area outside the office had three more people, packets in hand. Were the women at the computers inputting everything online that the citizens had filled in on their booklets?
We went down to the first floor to ask Sante if we could fill it out online.
“No, no. You wait. You get a receipt.”
A receipt? Oh, right. Since the penalty for not filling it out was a fine, we needed to get a receipt as proof that we filled it out and turned it in. In the country that doesn't issue you a receipt when you pay for your car insurance WITH CASH because the slip of paper that goes in the plastic pocket on your windshield is your proof of payment. In the country that didn't mail the forms to you in the first place, the country that doesn't mail tax bills or car registration bills or any other items that might generate money for the state and, instead, just sits back and waits for you to figure out what you owe and pay it. But just in case they get their act together to try to penalize you for not filling out the forms that you had to go and get yourself, you get a receipt.
Two more hours spent on Italian bureaucracy, waiting our turn to have our forms checked over by a local college girl, and one more piece of paper to add to our files.
I’m still trying to figure out why they provided a postage paid, return service envelope…