Italy and Efficiency Don’t Mix

For better and worse, timeliness and efficiency are not virtues in Italy.  While this is a good thing when sitting down for a leisurely meal or enjoying any of the masterpieces of art or nature, when the rest of the world is on a schedule, Italy falls behind.  Such is an example of trying to retrieve my left luggage in Rome.

Waiting in line is all too familar in Rome.  I had several hours to kill before my flight back home and wanted to walk around the city one last time without my backpack.  After 45 minutes I was finally able to drop off my luggage at Rome’s main train station Roma Termini.

I decided to leave plenty of time before retrieving my luggage before getting on the train to head to the airport.  After waiting about 30 minutes with my return ticket in hand, I paid and was told I had to go downstairs to pick up my bag. 

Downstairs I find less of a line and more of a mob; an angry one at that.  The crowd was gathered around an elevator.  A staff member was bringing up luggage from another level down.  Several customers say they had been waiting an hour or more to retrieve their luggage.  The staff member had a luggage cart and each trip he would bring 2-3 bags when it was obvious he could bring many more.

There was no discernible order in which he was bringing up bags.  Some people waited 5 minutes while others over an hour.  Some people had multiple bags.  They had one of their bags, but were waiting for the rest.

Some customers had given their ticket to the staff, pleading that they were going to miss their flight.  This was largely in vain as staff was not paying attention.  Instead they went about their highly inefficient and nonsensical method of bringing up a couple of bags every few minutes. 

At one point a female customer got on the elevator.  The staff urged her to get off.  She went into a tirade. In a combination of French and English she was saying she could do a better job than they could while dropping every curse word there was and possibly invention new ones.  She eventually relented and got off the elevator.  The staff member went to close to the elevator and then it wouldn’t close all the way.  The elevator was now broken.

At the same time, every few minutes we noticed staff going in a back door by the elevator and coming out with 1 or 2 pieces of luggage in a hurry.  As it turns out some customers were paying these guys extra to jump to the front of the line and personally have a staff grab their package. 

All of a sudden a leader of the angry mob emerged and decided it was time to take action.  He led a charge and the mob rushed the back door and headed downstairs.  The staff urged with the crowd to go back upstairs, but to no avail.  The mob had won out and customers were finding their own luggage.  A few of us were unable to find ours.  A worn out staff began helping us find our luggage.  We showed our tickets to the staff and they determined that our luggage was in fact still upstairs.    

Upstairs there is another mob of people waiting for their luggage as well.  It appears a revolt had happened upstairs as well as some customers were going past the counter to look for their luggage while ignoring any staff asking them to go back behind the counter.  Eventually I was able to find my backpack about 1 1/2 hours after I had arrived. 

The culprit for all of this chaos was a broken conveyer belt that caused luggage not being able to be transported between the upper and lower levels.  Even on a good day though, I find it hard to believe they are running a smooth efficient business.  It likely doesn’t matter though because Italy is such a tourist haven, the inefficiency’s experienced throughout my travels will probably not lessen the attraction of the place.  Italy is a stunning country and even the problems like this one will likely not deter people including myself from coming back.  Next time though do not bring a watch.  Perhaps a calendar.

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