Florence, a city like no other..., Stories from the crypt of life

My first job in an Italian office

When I moved here I, like any unfortunate bastard who wants to change his life out of nowhere, began to search for a job. Back home I was a lazy, working from home translator and occasionally, when I felt like it, worked in human resources, the rest of the time just travelling in my car, stopping for coffee wherever and writing frantically about everything. With some connections and a little begging (because that’s how they mostly do it here) I managed to get myself a job in human resources and my responsibilities were a little vague at first.

My first day at the job I was really nervous and I tried to please everyone so I introduced myself like a normal human being and awaited for the same response. Little did I know that they already hated me without even knowing me just because I was the new girl, 20 years younger than anybody in the office and of course very enthusiastic. They showed me around and pointed out several times that day that the spoken Italian language is not the same as the Italian I had learned from my books, so they pretended not to understand what I was saying most of the time.

The next day was the beginning of the end of my world as a normal working girl. They showed me some programs I had to use, so simple that even a two year old could operate, and gave me a three month deadline on something I could have done in a week. I was a little dazzled at first and in my stupidity I thought that if I could do a great job, faster than they said, I will be more popular. I was dead wrong, because after one week when I presented my work they just erased it without even looking at it, reasoning that nothing can be done well in such a short period of time. I almost burst into tears and realized that I didn’t copy any of my work so I had to start all over again. I was stunned and also naive because I’ve tried to educate them to get things done faster and better failing every time and being more hated by the minute.

So, after three months of struggling and lots of nights despairing on my husband’s shoulder, I’ve decided to try and do it their way. That day, I’ve asked about Internet connection, thinking that if I have to just sit there for hours I might as well do some browsing and some chatting. They looked at me like a little kid looks at his parents when they try to give him the talk about the birds and the bees. I understood then that they were a lost cause and that the only way to stay sane is to join them completely. I finally managed to get an Internet connection and started to mingle with the other four employees.

If I should draw a working day in that particular office I would put our secretary as the main event and character. She was amazing at doing nothing and complaining all the time that she has to work so hard and such long hours. She only worked from 9 pm until 1 pm so her hours were hectic indeed. You couldn’t start a working day without having a coffee first and then you had to plan out your day until it was 10 pm and a coffee break was in order. You finally started your day at about 11 pm and by that time hunger came crawling to your stomach so you had to take a break to eat something or as the secretary put it referring to our boss: „He treats us like slaves; does he want us to starve?” She quickly noticed I’m good at doing a lot of stuff so she started to make me do copies of things or printing randomly their work keeping me occupied for an hour and rambling that I am a computer wizard just for opening my email page. These people called the technician even when the printer was unplugged because they didn’t bother to search for the problem. By the time it was 1 pm I was already bored to death and I couldn’t wait for the lazy, crazy, always on a diet (although she weighted like 80 pounds) woman to go home so I can finally start working in peace.

In just five short months I was doing almost everyone’s job except answering the phone and started to question their presence there. I had already done my work for almost half a year in advance and although it seemed impossible for me to comprehend, every Italian office I visited was working following these specific steps. So why ask yourself if you are a lazy person when you should just try working in an Italian office and find out just how lazy and relaxed can you be.

Stories from the crypt of life

An every day corporate story

This is a story that my friend, a corporate girl, told me a while back. Let me give you a preview into a typical bad day and implicitly how to hate yourself on that day without even trying:
1. If you are a working, busy girl, your alarm clock failed you in the morning and you wake up an hour late refreshed and well rested until you gaze at the time and jump out of bed, stumbling into the sheets and bumping your head into the corner of the door.
2. If you are not working then you are already tired when you wake up from being lazy  every day, so your day will most certainly be a crappy one (that is what the employed people want to think and because they are a majority I will agree with them).
3. After 3 cups of coffee and no result in making your brain think, you give up and join the second floor or any floor’s “bitches” who are bragging about their new dog, fiancee, lover, sense of style and so on (you are a corporate girl if you didn’t realize that yet). You listen to them quietly as you smoke your fingers off, and occasionally you nod and smile thinking about how your self esteem got lower just because you are standing there.
4.  You love lunch time (your alone time), so you can’t wait to get there, but just when you leave your desk you see that the alpha male colleague, that howls with his eyes every time he sees you, stands firmly between you and the exit door. You think of a quick get-away and remember that you can take the other way to the stairs so you almost fall running towards the escape route when one of the “bitches” next to your cubical screams your name and wants you to wait for her. She wants to share her “whatever” experience over lunch.
5. Your stomach is full, your brain is awake, your fingers are working that keyboard like crazy and of course the system shuts down. You turn your head and see madness around you. Tones of cigarettes and lighters  are flashing in the air  in the hands of their possessors that are trying to get to the door to take advantage of the unplanned break. You would do the same, but the alpha male colleague is already standing in front of you trying to make “charming” conversation.
6. Finally your working day is finished. You say your polite goodbyes to every guy/girl behind their cubical and head towards the subway station.  Every bad memory of the day seems to fade away as you sit down and the subway carries you home while you glance into the phone to see what’s new on Facebook. But wait, it’s suppose to be a bad day so you receive a notification that says to check out the latest photos your ex posted. Your inner monster doesn’t resist the temptation, so you open the folder and of course he is on a round trip to Europe with his new too-skinny girlfriend (by the way you should lose some pounds, this is the only reason you are still alone).
7. You get home and just want to relax, drink some wine, forget all about this day but the phone rings and some friend you haven’t seen in ages convinces you to catch up and hang out in some pub; so you get dressed and run quickly to the place thinking maybe this could be fun. She is waiting by the bar and kisses you loudly on the cheek. She is the worst memory of yourself in college but that’s why you love her so much. She starts dragging you to the table and whispers in your ear she has a guy waiting to meet you (“a perfect guy for you” she says). It’s too late to protest and you almost faint when your eyes stop on the face of the alpha male colleague that stands up, reaches for your hand and smiles: “It seems to be faith.”
8. Needless to say that after two hours with that guy and 15 minutes trying to avoid his goodbye kiss, you are laying in bed thinking how can you get a medical leave from work for the whole year or at least until he is gone. You stand in the cold, on your balcony, with a lighted cigarette in your hands and wonder why are you doing this to your life,  to yourself. So slowly an awful thought comes to you: “Am I a corporate bitch?”. You shiver at the image of the answer and because  of the cold so you get in bed trying to think happy thoughts.
9. It’s almost midnight and you still can’t sleep so you turn on the T v and grab a bag of chips and some left over cookies from the other night (fuck losing weight, you had a bad day). You fall asleep with cookie crumbs on your cheek  and you dream about forgetting to set the alarm clock for the next day (your subconscious is telling you the truth, you did forgot ). You wake up at 5 AM, sweating and heavy breathing because of this repeating nightmare, set the alarm clock and go back to sleep. Before any new dreams come and take you away, a whispered voice asks you: “How many bad days do you need before you understand you are becoming a corporate b…ch?”   
Florence, a city like no other...

How Florence and I met

Florence and I met 10 years ago, so I think it’s safe to say that we know each other pretty well by now. We first made eye contact from the small plane window, when I was visiting my mother who lived and worked here.  I remember she took me for a walk the evening of my arrival and she was talking to me about what was going on in her life,  but my brain couldn’t process a single word she was saying as it was fascinated with everything that I was passing by. I remember when I saw Palazzo Vecchio that I interrupted her screaming: “This is it! The palace from my childhood! This is the palace I always envisioned when reading books with princesses and princes. It’s mine, this palace is mine!!!”. She smiled and said that I should first see the whole city and then make an opinion.
Ten years later and Palazzo Vecchio still is “my palace” and every friend and relative who visited us have heard those two words when I joined them on their tourist cruise around Florence. That palace, where Dr. Lecter dangled Inspector Pazzi off the edge of the balcony, has been and still is my unending inspiration for my stories. 
After seeing that “monster” of culture and history, we walked by The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore or otherwise known as The Duomo and I remember an itchy sensation in my eyes. I spent the entire month staring at this other “monster” and every time, a new, undiscovered before detail revealed itself to me. It was like a never ending story.
That same night of my arrival, while walking to my mother’s place, we came across Palazzo Pitti and it’s rocky beach, that whispered to me that we will see each other very often and it awaits me with my pen ready; and so it was. I was simply fascinated, so I made a pact that my entire month there I will explore as much as I can, inside and out.
The day I left Florence was one of false happiness, thinking that I am completely satisfied and  I can brag to my friends about every little detail of my trip. What I didn’t know at the time was that I will madly fall in love with this city and that its charm will sew me to it as a button to a blouse. Months went by and I noticed that every once in a while, if I closed my eyes I could see “my palace”, until one day I heard myself say out loud: “I wish I could live there.”  It took me 6 years of going back and  forth to get my wish and move to Florence to live a new life; but that’s another story for another night. 
Raising Ephia to become my friend

Mothers and their version of the truth

When I found out I was pregnant, I was neither happy, nor sad. I was overwhelmed with the fact that I have never wanted my own children, so my reaction remained unknown even for me for a long time. I  always worked with kids and loved them, but having one was not part of my plans.  I was stunned and expecting the worse and the best at the same time. All through the hours of evening sickness (everything seems to work  the opposite way for me) and occasional pains or  bad moods from the lack  of meat (I am a convinced carnivore, the baby wasn’t!), I thought about the thing that mothers always say: “You will feel the miracle of being a mother, so it’s all worth it “.
I’ve waited, and the day came for me to feel the miracle. Of course nothing happened. And I said to myself that I am the problem, that I should give it some time, but again nothing happened. Thus, I’ve started to think about this topic, that moms never want to approach with honesty, although they will intoxicate you with proper “advice” and never ending love stories towards their children. Don’t get me wrong, I do love my daughter and I could in fact write her tons of love letters, but the miracle of having her never touched me in the way they describe it. From the first moment when I saw her I felt normal, and that was a strange feeling for me. Maybe that was my miracle. Then I started to think about her as a grown up and her relationship with me and I came across a disturbing thought: “I feel like she is my friend not my child, and I need to help her grow up so I can get to know her as an individual.” Because of that thought everything became clear and I  started to invest all my energy to raise a good friend.
Most of the time new mothers lie, and I completely understand their point of view. It’s hard to admit that your precious little baby whom everyone adores, drives you insane in certain moments (think about the reaction people would have), so you will say he/she is a little agitated but the smile he/she gave you, made your day. My favorite scene is when two new mothers meet; it’s just like watching a great comedy show. They can talk about their babies forever, without saying more then two truthful sentences (I never understood that) forgetting that before they became mothers they were human beings with needs and interests of their own. Their most common mistake is refusing to understand that if they are happy, their child is happy too. A happy, healthy, pleased with herself mom is always the cool and the most loved mom (at least that is my strong belief).  I’ve decided to put this controverted topic on the board and share my opinions and everyday stories about the struggle to raise a friend and not a child. This may sometimes hurt other mothers but at least I will give them a new topic to discuss on their comedy show.  
Once upon a time when I was living in Bucharest...

Little brave drivers…

I feel compelled to talk about my hometown, Bucharest. I have so many memories, funny and sad stories and sometimes just the way it grew on me comes to mind; so I must share…let’s explore Bucharest from my perspective with its ups and downs…

First of all Bucharest is not a city but THE city were all brave drivers in the world live in… if you ever drove in Bucharest and stayed alive you are a hero… Bucharest’s drivers are very “patient” due to the long (unthinkable) hours spent in traffic… the best  hours to drive for “fun” are 7 am and 6 pm… you could even catch a coffee with the colleague from the next lane, the light would hit green (at least 10 times)and you would never have to worry about moving your car… it sounds terrifying but  it’s actually a good thing… rush hours are the only hours one from Bucharest has time to think… the rest of the time they are all kept busy by this gigantic and charming capital.

Let’s imagine that a non-resident has the nerve to role his tires among those heroes… they are “welcomed” with lots of “kind” words and a separate lane will be available for them (the tram’s tracks)… I was one of those brave Bucharest drivers so I had never experienced that kind of “hospitality” until 2 years ago when we drove into the city with an Italian registered car… so, we (me and my better half) had the nerve to go out in traffic with a foreign licence… disaster struck instantly… we found ourselves, in less than 3 minutes, on the counter flow lane, almost in the middle of the intersection and on the tram’s tracks… great huh? a soon as we got home (safely) I decided to use the other car, that had local licence plates and surprise, surprise for the next two weeks I had the best time in traffic…

All these aside, if you wake up in the middle of the night, and you want to go for a drive, just you and the stupid band on your player that you can’t get over with and you just want to play the same stupid song over and over again, this is the city to do it in… and then, after a while, when you get tired of chasing the lonely lanes and stopping at the bored traffic lights, you just pull over in the big parking lot in front of the Palace of Parliament  and  stare like an idiot because it’s a mastodon of beauty… so take a look… are you staring?

The Palace of Parliament
Stories from the crypt of life

Memories that never come back

We live too fast, we think too fast, we love too fast and most of the times we die too fast…our memories can’t keep up the pace…we run away from them and we die without them…our memories could keep us alive but they never seem to catch up… maybe they waste too much time in traffic or maybe the traffic lights on the lane they take are always red… life pushes us in roundabouts and memories get lost on narrow streets with no corners or endings… and after all that running, you catch a red light… you sit quietly in your car and you remember you had memories… all of a sudden everything makes sense… you can see your first kiss and the way it runs towards you, the smile of a child who you once passed by, your first cigarette, a bench in a park that once caressed your loneliness, friends who made you happy, the lonely nights spent meditating, a puppy that once wiggled its tail when it saw you, the faces of those dear to you, the stories told by your grandparents, a sunrise on the beach, the happiness of your childhood…but wait…the green light is on… out of nowhere horns break your eardrums so you set yourself in motion… the memories get frightened and chase after you… they don’t want to lose you again… you forget  about them and keep running… weak and tired they start to turn back … they will play in a park until you decide to catch a red light again…  

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