Slower Than The Speed Of Light

A mere seven months after we signed a contract to have electricity-generating solar panels installed, they’ve finally been hooked-up and switched on.

The responsibility of doing this lay with ENEL – the Italian state-run electricity board – who, when they did at last show up, predictably perhaps arrived in force with two vans.

The actual fitting of a couple of meters which log the amount of electricity the panels generate took around half-an-hour.

One bloke did the work. His mate stood and watched for a while, then got bored and went for a walk through the olive groves.

With that air of doomed certainty that seems to attach itself to any dealings with state-run companies here, there was consternation when they discovered they’d been sent out with the wrong paperwork.

With his mate still off communing with nature in the olives, it had fallen to Bloke 1 to deal with the form-filling, and such was the quantity of documentation, it took a while for the realisation to dawn that certain key elements weren’t there.

Or if they were there, shouldn’t have been.

Sorting that out took longer than the fitting.

In any event, it  was exactly the scenario that called for the intervention of Bloke 3.

He was the ‘Technico’, a brisk 20-something, stylishly-dressed in designer gear, who’d thus far taken what can best be described as a watching brief. Interspersed with texting on his two smartphones.

He phoned HQ and sternly admonished them. In situations like this, always important to shift responsibility.

An exercise in buck-passing ensued to hammer out a solution in which no blame attached to anyone.  Il Technico phoned A; who passed on the call to B; who discussed it with C; who had to bypass D because he was off having a coffee and instead had a word with E; who suggested only F had the authority to deal with this; but he wanted confirmation from G; who insisted on hearing the full story first-hand from A, until, well, yes, non preoccuparsi (don’t worry) signore, tutto va bene.

The offending paperwork was ostentatiously torn-up. Would I kindly dispose of the pieces for them ? (As God forbid they should take their rubbish away with them.)

No problem. I’ll just add them to the tell-tale trail of bits of snipped-off electric cable and discarded cigarette ends marking Bloke 1’s trips to/from his van.

A little over two hours after they’d arrived, they were off to harness the sun’s rays for someone else.

Earwigging Il Technico and Bloke 1 discussing the rest of the day’s schedule, they appeared to have two more appointments.

Not exactly punishing, but a schedule of fitting three meters a day does begin to explain why the entire process of getting hooked-up had taken so excruciatingly long.

And it helps explain too why Italy’s in the economic mire, if it takes one bloke to wire-up a meter; another to see that he does it right and make phonecalls on the (admittedly not improbable) offchance that something goes wrong; and a third member of the team to go for a walk.

But in fairness, tutto does indeed va bene. The panels generate power. There’s an LCD display showing just how much electrical oomph is surging through the system, which seems easily enough to light lower Manhattan.

Boil a kettle ? Go mad and stick a piece of bread in the toaster as well – and while you’re at it, turn on the oven, and stick a load in the dish-washer. Just for the hell of it.

I’m a lean, mean, green, electricity-generating machine.


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