by Melinda Gallo

Leather shops downtown

I've been holding myself back from making comments about the leather shops all over Florence. I'm not fond of people sitting outside on their scooters or standing outside smoking cigarettes, checking out all the tourists (mainly women) as they walk by.

I admit that when I moved here the first time in 1997 I was asked to work in one of these leather shops and I did. I thought it'd be good for my Italian, but it wasn't at all. For two months, I went to the leather shop in the afternoon and put in my 4 hours a day. People would come in to look around and I would just let them. I couldn't follow them through the shop like my colleague and have them try on jackets that they eventually bought after much praise.

I like to be left alone in shops and I figured everyone else did too. But, I was wrong; people do want a little bit of attention. Eventually I quit because I just didn't want to get fired for not selling anything.

Today, I walked past a leather shop and a man sitting outside said, "Ciao. Hi! How are you?" I looked sideways through my dark sunglasses and saw that he was looking straight at me. He continued to hedge his bets and blurted, "Eh bella...beautiful girl," in both Italian and English. It sounded more like he was trying to pick me up, but actually I know he just wanted me to go into his shop. I squinted my eyes even more at him and walked away without saying anything or looking back.

At the next leather shop I went past another man did the same thing to a young American girl coming toward me. She smiled at him and waved as if to say that she wasn't interested. But to him that was his invitation. He began to talk some more to her and blurt out every English word he knew.

I almost wanted to shake her and tell her to just ignore the guy, but she was obviously being polite. I'll say "No grazie," to anyone who wants to hand me a flyer or ask me to sign a petition in the street. But, I refuse to respond to people who enter my space uninvited. Do they really think that I'm going to buy a jacket from some guy who compliments me and every other girl walking by?

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