October 11th, 2006

In This Place Paranoia Is Merely Heightened Awareness

Last Monday I went to the US Consulate in Naples to get my passport renewed. I was stopped by a maze of concrete barriers surrounding the building, apparently to defend against a suicide car bomber, and I could not see a way to get to the entrance gate. I approached a young Carabineri who carried an automatic rifle, and asked him how I could get past the barriers. He called to his companion, another Carabineri manning a machine gun at the top of an armored personnel carrier, and he waved me in the right direction. When I got there the gate was closed. I punched the button on the intercom. Immediately a voice said, "Pronto?" I replied that I had come to get my passport renewed. The metallic voice said, "We are closed. Holiday. Come back tomorrow."

So Tuesday I went back. A stern faced guard at the gate demanded to see my passport before he would allow me into the compound. At the entrance of the consulate, a grim-faced guard demanded my cell phone. "Turn it OFF," he said. I did, and he gave me a paper ticket with the number 82 written on it. He directed me to put my satchel on the X-ray machine, just like the ones at airports. I did so. I passed through the metal detector.

There, above the elevators, was a large color portrait of George W. Bush. President of the United States. He had a silly grin on his face. I shook my head. It was bizarre. It creeped me out.

It took about a half an hour to fill out the forms for a passport renewal, and to pay the fee of about 60 Euros.

I got on the elevator to go back down to the lobby, and a genial gray haired man, his wife, and three or four adult children followed me into the small space. The guy suddenly herded his family into the corner, turned to me. "We are afraid," he said with a wink. "Verrrrrry afraid. We get that way whenever we come in close contact with the government of the United States."

I laughed. "And I thought it was just me," I said.

* * *

For future reference, the Consulate is closed for both American and Italian holidays.

Holiday Schedule

Embassy and the Consulates will be closed to the public on the following
official holiday:


January 1, Sunday*
New Year's Day (A&I)

January 6, Friday
Epiphany (I)

January 16, Third Monday

Martin Luther King's Birthday (A)

February 20, Third Monday
President's Day (A)

April 17, Monday
Easter Monday (I)

April 25, Tuesday
Anniversary of Liberation (I)

May 1, Monday
Labor Day (A)

May 29, Last Monday
Memorial Day (A)

June 2, Friday
Foundation of the Italian Republic (I)

June 24, Saturday**
St. John's Day (I) (Florence only)

June 29, Thursday
St. Peter and St. Paul's Day (I) (Rome only)

July 4, Tuesday
Independence Day (A)

August 15, Tuesday
Assumption Day (I)

September 4, First Monday
Labor Day (A)

September 19, Tuesday
St. Gennaro's Day (I) (Naples only)

October 9, Second Monday
Columbus Day (A)

November 1, Wednesday
All Saints' Day (I)

November 11, Saturday***
Veterans' Day (A)

November 23, Fourth Thursday
Thanksgiving Day (A)

December 7, Thursday
St. Ambrogio's Day (I) (Milan only)

December 8, Friday
Feast of the Immaculate Conception (I)

December 25, Monday
Christmas Day (A&I)

December 26, Tuesday
St. Stephen's Day (I)

Note: When an authorized American holiday falls on a Sunday, offices are closed the following Monday. When an American holiday falls on a Saturday, offices are closed the preceding Friday. This practice is not followed in the case of the Italian holidays.

*Holiday Monday
** no other day off
***Holiday Friday