This is what’s pissing me off today (Nov. 26th, 2007)

angry-hobo.jpgF*cking Italy!!!

OK, OK… Let’s just calm down and try to discuss this like rational, levelheaded F*CKING ITALY!!!!!

Here’s Italy’s latest piss me off endeavor:

Last April, I rented a car from a so-called “car rental agency” in Florence through a broker web site called Nova Car Hire, to use for my Lonely Planet research trip (I’m omitting the name of the car rental company until the situation has been resolved). The car rental office is located in the historic center of Florence.

For those of you who have not had firsthand, piss me off, Italy driving experience, most cities have restricted areas in the historic center where only approved vehicles can go. This is so the tiny streets aren’t constantly grid-locked, thereby making more room for the double-wide butted tourists to stagger blindly down the street, get in my way and piss me off.

The Italians enforce access to this restricted area by setting up little cameras and shooting photos of license plates as cars enter the area. At the end of the day the newest/dumbest guy at the police station is supposed to sort through these photos and check them against a list of approved cars. Anyone audacious enough to drive into the historic center without permission gets a ticket sent to their home in the mail, but only after deviously waiting seven months so you have no hope of contesting the violation – que piss me off, no?

In the case of my rental car agency in Florence, I was clearly informed that all of their cars had universal approval to drive in the historic center, because if they didn’t no one could ever return their cars. Sounds pretty reasonable and straightforward, doesn’t it? Ah ha! That is where you are wrong idiota! This is Italy! Making sense is no permesso qua! Pissing people off, however, is a national sport!

Since Italian bureaucracy can’t distinguish between logic and absurdity, I have taken the time to list all of the problems with this deeply flawed, photo-cop, cross-referencing solution:

1. Half of all Italians can’t be bothered to read their email (the other half don’t reply to emails). And that’s if their internet is working, which it doesn’t for two or three days in an average week. So depending on email for transferring this vital anti-piss me off information is inconsistent at best, hopeless at worst
2. This is a hugely detail oriented system, and Italians, Buddha love ’em, are not inherently detail oriented – except when it comes to food and espresso preparation, where they are admirably fastidious.
3. Even in ancient Rome, they could process and deliver a traffic violation across town in less than seven months, for f*ck’s sake!
4. No one in an Italian position of authority gives two shits about pissing people off as a direct result of their indisputable ineptitude.

Not surprisingly the system has broken down in my case. When I drove my car into Florence’s historic center to return it on April 30th, not only did the new/dumb cop not successfully locate my car on the list of approved cars, but when he sent the ticket to the car rental agency they clearly didn’t even bother to read the ticket. If they had read the ticket, they might have said:

“Oh $hit, that useless piece of over-sugared espresso Fabrissio f*cked up again and ticketed one of our cars. Send this ticket back. While you’re at it, tell Fabrissio that’s he’s a jackhole and that I’m going to sleep with his wife over lunch.”

But of course that didn’t happen because that would have required the car rental guy to stop thinking about his cigarettes, cell phone and Fabrissio’s wife for a minute. Instead, he just charged my credit card for the violation and went back to his long career of pissing people off and being useless.

So not only am I f*cked, but I’m double pissed off because after this alarming series of group incompetence, not surprisingly, I can’t get any of these people to read/answer my emails contesting the bogus violation. And before you ask, calling them is useless too, because no one who answers the phone in Italy actually has the power to do anything. And the people who answer phones are not allowed to speak directly to the people with power, because then the people with power would have to do something.

Meanwhile, I’ve filed a dispute through my credit card company. Ironically, the gross ineptitude and slo-mo functioning speed of the Italian bureaucracy is probably the only thing that will get my money back. My credit card company gives the merchant 30 days to reply to a disputed charge, if they don’t reply, they just take the money back. I figure these people won’t even read the dispute email until well into January and reply some time after Easter by which time I’ll have my money back and I’ll have moved on and be pissed off about something new.

firenze_ztl_map.jpg[UPDATE: Someone actually answered my email! Except they only did so to tell me two lies: 1) That my car rental place is not located in the restricted area of Florence (click the map on the right to expose the lie and, as a bonus, see the name of the car rental agency in question) and 2) that it’s possible to reach the car rental office without driving through the restricted area (again see map for actual fact). I’m still contesting and even sent them a copy of this map, though I’m starting to suspect that this may not be a case of staggering negligence, but instead be a lazy scam on the part of the car rental agency to soak customers out of an extra US$83. I can’t decide which pisses me off more.]

Moving on, I’m in the throes of a post Michael Moore film Pissed Off-athon. I watched “Sicko” a few nights ago and all of a sudden I’m regretting moving back to America. Now I’m fully aware that Moore’s theatrics, careful editing and subject selection is designed to illicit maximum pissed off-titude (otherwise no one would go see the film), but that doesn’t change the fact that all this showmanship is based on documented fact.

How many other First World (and fading) countries have a government-supported heath care system meticulously designed to soak people dry with membership fees, co-pays and deductibles and then not help them?? It’s infuriating, not to mention a goddamn embarrassment. And they know this, so rather than making some changes so they don’t look like sadistic f*ckwits, they cover for their failings by spreading lies about other countries’ dangerously inadequate heath care systems, like those conniving Socialists in Canada and the U.K.

Socialist?? No God, noooooo!!!! Anything but that! Cancel the road trip to Winnipeg! I’ll die for sure!!! OK, these systems have their own flaws, but is anyone denied care? And did you know that Slovenia has better heath care than we do? Really? Slovenia?

I can’t remember the last time I was this pissed off. Oh wait, I know, it was after I watched “Fahrenheit 9/11”. You can’t imagine how relieved I was to be in Australia at the time. “You can’t get me Bush! I’m in Australia! Ha-ha!!” But now I’m back in America for reasons I’m having trouble remembering at the moment. The politicians are right, they can commit any atrocities they want, the public will eventually forget.

So, having no reasonable means of health insurance in this country myself, which would be largely useless anyway, what are my options when I get genuinely sick? Well, according to Moore, I have several. Sneak into Canada, draft someone to be my common law wife (I’m taking applications) and get all the healthcare I need all for the price of two tanks of gas; fly to Slovenia; swim to Cuba or throw myself off a bridge.

F*ck you American healthcare system!! F*ck you and your poorly cared for mothers!!!

[Pant, pant, pant.]

Finally, as I alluded to last week, even though this story broke nearly a year ago, I’m still pissed off about my stupid, wasteful, idiotic government flying 12 billion dollars in cash to Iraq, leaving one sleepy guy to guard it and then acting genuinely surprised when the money disappeared.

So what if it wasn’t US taxpayer money? That’s 12 billion dollars! There was about 12 billion betters ways to put that money to good use.

Even the stupidest kid, born of the stupidest family, in the stupidest town, in the stupidest corner of Alabama, when asked (while riding the shortest bus) what might happen if someone left 12 billion dollars sitting around unguarded, would’ve said “people will take it and use it to buy Mercedes and fund more terrorism, stupid”.

Every year our government redefines stupid. If there was a Stupid Olympics, we’d hold every world record. If they built cars that ran on stupid, Los Angeles would have better air quality than Reykjavik. If there was a Stupid American Idol, there’d be a 200 million-way tie.

What next? Vehemently deny that global warming is happening so we can ride the gravy train of gas and oil for a couple more decades before the whole planet becomes a lifeless, over-heated Water World where we live on rafts and have to filter and re-drink our own pee? No one could be that stupid, right?

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