Italians fear inspections the same way naughty blackbirds fear a sentinel scarecrow. And from the way they nervously flit and hop while blatantly breaking the field's best rules, you'd think the whole country was in dire risk of being swiftly stuffed as supper fowl. Which means, of course, that I have been waiting sixteen long years to witness a controllo actually happen, just to revel as all the rulebreakers run from their rainy parade. Not that I would be any less sopping after the sprint-everyone breaks rules in this country and that, in fact, is the only law the whole population is expected to unswervingly respect.
So the day the European Union representative arrived to investigate possible irregolarità with my EU-funded English course for hotel staff, I was beside myself with glee. There were mountains of bureaucratic misdemeanors whose summits she could climb with paramount ease, sending an avalanche of ruptured regulations tumbling down from the top rock.
I had double the amount of students per class compared to legal numbers-none of whom had officially registered. And all the enrolled folk were chronic no-shows, unless you counted their phantom signatures, which regularly appeared in the registers each week, the same way new soap bars showed up for the hotel's guests after each second wash. Plus, during what they called ‘personalized courses' I spent half the lesson-time chasing down reluctant chambermaids. ‘Talk to whoever you can find', the hotel manager had instructed. And it is precisely this wonderful axiom that I plan on spending one day, in lieu of a retirement check. Because while the chambermaids are no longer safe hiding in the linen closet whenever it is their floor's turn to be taught, they are not unknown to run the vacuum during ‘lesson' if their rooms aren't clean-an inconvenience that crops up each time I have a grammar point they want brushed under the rug.
The controllo lady met with me in the hotel's breakfast bar and ordered a macchiato before saying that my register looked spotty. ‘I've encountered some irregularities,' she said, spooning both brown and white sugar into her cup.
‘Really?' I asked, more surprised at her two-tone sugar than at her palpable affirmation.
‘There's a problem with the course name,' she explained. ‘In the space marked ‘Course description' you wrote ‘English conversation.' That is incorrect. Its title is "L'arte dell'accoglienza e l'ospitalità attraverso l'evoluzione delle competenze professionali." We are going to have to rewrite all the registers, otherwise they may not release the funds.'