The Tessera Sanitaria Renewal, or, “Please stop screaming at me?”

[Week 52] At least I didn't cry today.
[Week 52] Has anyone here even heard of the Hippocratic Oath?
Do you know how absolutely dehumanizing it is to be screamed at at ten a.m., at a medical institution, for something that should be so simple? No? Well, welcome to my morning.

With my permesso renewal receipts in hand I headed off to Via Tripoli really early this morning to renew my tessera sanitaria (EHIC). I arrived there quite happily, my bus connection from Nomentana arriving on time and being acceptably roomy. Got to the counter at the ASL, handed over all my documents, they coded in a new tessera to be sent to me, then printed out my registration. Done, in under a minute! I then asked whether I could get an S1 form from there, from a Sig.ra Paola as advised by a friend who had gotten his, however she was not there and I was told to go to the bigger ASL that specializes in “Assistenza all’Estero” in Piazzale Porta Pia, thankfully just one bus ride away.

So there I went, only to be made to wait for extended periods of time while the lady took phone call after phone call, berated a poor man who was just delivering papers to be signed, and finally screamed at me for asking for an S1 form that apparently only Italian citizens could get (I was told by my Belgian university to ask for it!) and rudely told to come back when I am an Italian citizen.

Look lady. When Jasmin and I were there much earlier this year you looked over our documents and told us to come back and get the S1 before leaving Rome. You in fact correctly identified me this morning as the girl who was going to Brussels on an Erasmus. Now I’m here and you scream at me that only Italian citizens can get an S1 and try to take away the papers I was given by my ASL at Via Tripoli?

  • First of all, if only Italians can get an S1, that’s perfectly fine. I would have left and simply explained things to Brussels, no problems. Why did you have to scream at me? Furthermore, why didn’t you tell us this last March when we specifically asked for it (with passports in hand and everything)?
  • No, seriously, why did you have to scream at me? And slam papers around like I’m the worst thing you’ve seen all day? Is it racism? Are you just having a bad day? If I wasn’t raised well I would have answered you pitch for screaming-pitch but that would be shameful to myself.

What’s great though is that if anything, living in Italy taught me that I won’t take things meekly. When the Porta Pia lady attempted to keep my ASL registration papers I took them back and answered with a clear “These are my papers, given to me by your colleagues at Via Tripoli. You have no right to confiscate my documents and I thank you for your kind assistance this morning.” I believe the sarcasm was lost on her, but it seemed that my tone was enough. My first experience with the tessera sanitara wasn’t that great either, but looking back I am grateful not to have dealt with this lady from the very beginning. Thank you, Rome, for small blessings, and thank you for teaching me that I have an angry voice and that I can use it.

So I left Piazzale Porta Pia with no modullo S1, mildly crumpled registration papers, but hopefully still with a tessera sanitaria (I will know if/when it arrives at my house).

At the moment I am quite demoralized, as I imagine anyone would feel at being treated this way. To the Italians who defend their country with no ifs and buts, can you tell me how you would defend your country woman’s actions towards me today? To my Italian friends, I’m so sorry as well. I started this blog to remember every step I took on the road to my PhD, thinking it would be a nice way to remember the writing process, though it seems I got quite more than I bargained for.

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