When I first arrived in Italy I had a lot to learn about my hosting country. The do’s the dont’s and the your better off if you look the other way type of stuff. Many things made perfect sense and I embraced them happy to conform in my new-found home full of its Galleteo-ism. I am American however, and some things I will just never understand. I don’t mind asking permission (Italians say permesso when entering anywhere) to look at whatever it is you want me to buy, but what ever happened to customer care?
Recently, I experienced something like this at a new women’s clothing boutique that opened up practically on my front doorstep. Our neighborhood is not exactly buzzing with pedestrian traffic so after about 6 months of seeing this shop empty, I make a mental note to stop by and say hello to my new neighbors. (mistake number 1. A recent Grace study showed that 99.9% of Milanese people have never said a word to their neighbors) This shop is run by a small blond woman and a younger version of blond woman. (who we will call YBW)
I have seen these women on a daily basis for 6 months as they sit on their white leather Frau poltrona’s just waiting for someone to come in. (and waiting. and waiting..) (mistake number 2 – ask self why this might be) So finally, with a few extra minutes on my hands I decide to stop by and say hello.
‘Buongiorno‘ I say as I enter the tiny shop.
‘Buongiorno’ YBW says looking at me with a very bewildered look on her face.
‘Siamo vicini di casa, volevo dare un occhiata’ which means as we are neighbors I thought I’d drop by and have a look around.
To which YBW says nothing. That’s when her mom comes around the corner and says ‘CERTO.’which means certainly and I feel relieved because YBW is really looking at me in a weird way- and I’m starting to wonder if I put make-up on one eye only, or if I have chocolate brioche stuck in my teeth or something.
I start to sift through the beautifully made things on their white hangers when YBW comes and stands right next to me yanking every clothes hanger back to its exact position on the rack. YBW is scaring me, I don’t know what she wants – so I say,
‘avete le cose molto belle, ma li fate voi?’ and this means ‘everything is beautiful, do you make them?’
‘Si’ she says as she yanks another hanger back in its place, and that’s when I should have gotten the hell out of there instead I’m sort of rooted to the ground in total confusion about why this woman is being so rude, I continue with ‘where do you make everything?’ and that’s when YBW looks me square in the eyes and says
‘in che senso?’ and this means ‘in what sense?’
and now I just want to run away because this women is obviously mentally unbalanced, but I have to answer and what I want to say is ‘where do you produce everything – as in, what clothing factory..’ but YBW HAS MADE ME SO NERVOUS I END UP SAYING
‘avete una fattoria qui in zona?’ which literally translates to ‘do you have a farm here in the area?’
YBW looks at me like she is going to strangle me and fortunately in that minute the Gods of embarrassing moments send 3 women in the store leaving me to escape unnoticed..by my new Italian neighbors.