Exactly two years ago, during May 2011, my addiction to coffee was reaching its peak, I (wrongly) believed that I was developing quite a suntan and I still frequently confused the words for ‘dessert’ and ‘shower’ in Italian, resulting in some memorable conversations. I also unfortunately lost my tram pass, causing me to spend my final two months in Florence on permanent alert on public transport in fear of being fined. Staying true to form as a Scot, I had already paid for these two months worth of travel so was reluctant to buy a ticket for each journey.
As care-free as this Italian life may seem, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. I did encounter a few bureaucratic and cultural hiccups, shall we say. One of the first hurdles was to register with a GP, since inevitably working with children in a school (the breeding ground for germs, as my Dad would say) was going to lead to some sort of toxic flu. Armed with my European health card, I set off to the surgery only to be told that registrations were dealt with centrally, in an office miles away. When I say miles away, I mean the equivalent distance away from a city, without it being in another country, that Ryan-air build their airports. Nevertheless, three buses later I found myself in a very small, overcrowded, stifling hot waiting room. And I waited. And waited, and waited. When I eventually cottoned on to the fact that there was no queue other than myself, I decided to be continental about it all, pushing my way forward into the office. Despite not knowing where or what Scotland was, even the UK caused problems when its relationship with Europe was called into question. I explained that the last time I had been there, it had definitely been a part of the European Union, hence my European passport, which was being brandished about the office, receiving sceptical glances. Thankfully, it wasn’t anything that Google couldn’t resolve and once convinced that I was, in fact, a European citizen, I was told I didn’t need to be here to register -just to do it at the GP’s office. You can see how that story continues, meaning that you will also understand why I never successfully managed to register with a doctor. This was no problem, until the day the toxic flu hit.
Having spent a week in bed miserably sipping water and hot tea, in a futile attempt to soothe my swollen tonsils, I bundled up and ventured to the free, drop-in doctor’s clinic. The large, whitewashed waiting room was deserted aside from a well-dressed, middle aged man reading the paper who, casually glimpsing up from his broadsheet, uttered a ciao as I entered. Squeaking into the less than comfortable plastic chair and feeling less than impressed with life, I scowled at the door leading into the doctor’s room, urging the patient to leave, so I could be rid of my disease. To my surprise, after a good ten minutes, the well-dressed newspaper-reading man, folded up his paper and proceeded to usher me into the office with him. How inconsiderate of me to have arrived during the doctor’s morning break. He certainly did seem rushed off his feet . In any case, I was now being seen to. I would be back home soon with some antibiotics and be back to normal within a few days. Or so I thought:
Doctor: ‘I’ll just have a look at your throat; if you could open…hmm…ok. Listen, normally at this time I go for a coffee. I’ll just be a sec. Would you like anything?’
Me: *cue look of confusion/outrage*
At this point, he left. Another ten minutes later he came sauntering back from the bar across the road with his macchiato- tutto con calma. When his reappearance with the hilarious ‘Oh well, you’re still alive!’ comment, failed to induce even a snicker, he quickly set aside his coffee and re-examined my throat. Confirming then that I did indeed need antibiotics, he was also sorry to inform me that those sorts of antibiotics would need to be prescribed by your registered GP (of course), or by a hospital doctor.
I gave up and proved him wrong by fighting off the tonsillitis with some more bed rest. I feel the important life lesson learnt from this story is never to fall ill in Italy. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.