Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Italy – CCVIII. Our Daily Life (17 of 19)

Being able to make a living was only part of this equation. Finding suitable accommodations called for another miracle. And this task fell upon Dorette, for Henri was now employed and could not take time-off from work.

Dorette proved as determined as Henri was. She visited as many buildings as her time and energy permitted. There she learned that even renting an available apartment required travelling through a labyrinth of regulations. But available units were as rare as hen’s teeth, therefore, enquiring what entitled you to an apartment was of limited relevance.

One day, after visiting an apartment building and getting another, “ci dispiace, …” (We are sorry, …), a dejected Dorette was ready to come back home, when a young woman came running towards her bus stop.

This was the story as told by this young lady in a rapid fire almost incomprehensible Italian dialect: “A man has just died in a nearby building and his apartment was now available.” She then gestured to Dorette to follow her. Dorette was led to an oldish building, and they went up a flight of stairs until they reached the required apartment. When they knocked on the door, a pleasant 30-something opened the door, and, as it turned out, she was the building manager.

She invited Dorette for a coffee, and confirmed that an apartment had just become available. However, there was a big waiting list, and she could not bypass that list. As well, there were many other regulations that had to be met. That said, since she managed many buildings, she requested Dorette’s phone number and promised to call her back as soon as possible; she also placed her on her waiting list.

But Egyptians do not quit so easily. She remembered a tip given by the aforementioned young woman. “I have a young family and we are new here in Italy; would it be possible to at least visit this apartment,” asked Dorette. While this woman was looking for some excuse to rid herself of this demanding lady, Dorette fixed a date and time; put in a different way she made her own appointment! Disarmed, the lady smiled and nodded.

Dorette didn’t go alone. Henri came with her, and as agreed, Dorette made herself scarce. And they got the apartment! How they did it is a long story (as are all Egyptian stories). Suffice to say that Henri charmed the daylight out of that helpless woman. The waiting list was quickly forgotten, as for the regulations, the Palachi had to affix their signature to a variety of official documents. What elaborate scenarios were concocted, we never did find out.

I remember the first time we went to visit them. The building was ancient, pre-World War One. The hallways were dark and there were no lights in the stairwell. The elevator was antiquated; and so, it was with some trepidation that we decided to get in. We pushed the button to get to our floor, but nothing happened. Eventually, an old man came out of his lodge and addressed us: “Ciao, mi chiamo Andrea, io sono il custode qui. Come posso aiutarla?” (Hi, my name is Andrea, I am the janitor here. How can I help you?) Nisso told him about the problem with the elevator; Andrea very reluctantly put his hand in his pocket and produced a token to place in a slot before we pressed the button. He then told us that it was free of charge!

Andrea then inquired as to where we were going? The Palachi name brought him to the edge of despair, and he exclaimed: “Non so cosa fare con questi Palachi, tanti gettoni.” (I don’t know what to do with these Palachi, so many tokens). And decades later we remembered Andrea’s distress over such an insignificant issue. I guess for him it was a difficult problem to tackle! Thereafter, when we visited our relatives, Andrea grumbled a lot before he produced his precious token!

The apartment itself was bright and airy, but rather small for a family of five. But it was a beginning.

During one of our visits, the manager paid the Palachi a visit. That lady fawned over Henri to the point that it was embarrassing. Dorette disappeared in the kitchen and we vacated the living-room. And Henri humored her. Why not? He owed her big time, and he was willing to repay his debt – within limits, of course!

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