Bureaucracy and the Barista

What would happen if Italy’s most brilliant workers were tasked with civic roles?

I went to the Roma Capitale Ufficio Relazioni con i Cittadini the other day to check on why I had no response to my emails. Nice offices, with great art by Alice Pasquini behind the photocopier.

No one was at the front desk so I waited, ten minutes later someone came in, walked passed me, then turned back and asked what I was doing there. I explained and they went into the back room, where there were three of four people chatting, and a child at a computer terminal. After 15 minutes the nice staff person was able to tell me that the mails had been received, but not why I had received no response.

So I went to get a coffee. It got me thinking.

Imagine if Rome’s public administration were handled by its barista’s:

  • l’ufficio postale: postal worker’s juggling bills and packages to ensure that no one has to waste more than a minute in line
  • atac: public transit on time, everyone pays, and in the seconds of downtime between passenger rushes employees wipe down the stations to keep them sparkling
  • ama: trash trucks maintained with pride, dumpsters always in their place, regularly emptied, and employees ready to greet citizens with a smile, but to reprimand them for dirtying the public realm.
  • roma capitale: a clear and simple programme is posted for all to see and any request is met with a timely and friendly response.

If a Roman bar were administered by its public administration: 

  • You aren’t sure if the bar is open, where the door is, or what its hours are.  You finally get in through a side door but can’t figure out what they have on the menu or what the prices are.
  • There are lots of people behind the bar but no one asks for your order.
  • When you finally ask for an espresso the employee looks at you like no one has ever made such a request and says they will look into it. Then they light a cigarette and start texting.
  • Someone else gets a cappuccino and leaves without paying so you do the same.  Then, when the bar goes bankrupt for lack of business the staff demonstrates to complain about not receiving their salaries and bonuses.