by Melinda Gallo

Picking up my dry cleaning

Well, today I went to pick up my dry cleaning. I rattled off how many items I had, "Due panatloni, tre maglioni, e una camicia." (two pairs of pants, three sweaters, and a men’s shirt) The girl told me to come back "giovedě nel pomeriggio" (Thursday afternoon), which here means around 4PM.

When we walked at 6:30PM, the two girls, who are about 25 years old, were talking with a family of four. The place was humid and smelled like some cleaning substance I've never smelt before. The one girl who was ironing looked up at me and said, "Mi dica." (Tell me). As the words, "Sono venuta..." (I'm here...) came out of my mouth, she suddenly remembered who I was and cut me off by saying, "Tutto non č pronto...sto stirando." (It's all not ready...I'm ironing.) But, she didn't stop there. Not only did she hold the middle of the word in her mouth for about 10 seconds, but she showed me the iron as well.

I thought to myself...do I look like I don't understand? Do I have an inquisitive or lost look on my face? As I looked back at Dave and then looked back at her, she put down the iron and flashed both hands at me (palms open) and said, "Tornate fra 10 minuti." (Come back in 10 minutes.) "Avoglia." (Of course, in Florentine slang) I responded. Maybe that'll prove that I understand Italian quite well. She looked at me still wondering if I understood her. I was burning up from embarrassment while everyone in the shop was staring at me.

As I left, I wanted to scream. OK, I don't look Italian and Dave doesn't look Italian, but at least the girl could've listened to me and responded appropriately according to my level of Italian. I vowed I'd never return...except in 10 minutes to get my clothes.

When I did go back, and cooled off a little bit, I talked to her some more and made sure she heard me speak. Anything I could think of just to prove to her that I understand Italian. But, she wouldn't have any of it. This time as I got to the door instead of saying, "Ciao!" I said, "Addio!" (Farewell!--which is normally said to mean "goodbye forever").

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