“In February it’ll be 30 years since we’ve been open. Yeah, I’ve been working here that long … we had a party for our 25th year. We invited family and friends and went out for a dinner but this year, I don’t think we’ll do anything…”
My first “waiting conversation“.
I was given a beautiful vase by some friends over New Year and I finally had some time to go over to the florist at the end of my street and pick up some flowers. My usual procedure in Italy whenever I have to buy something from a local shop that could result in me awkwardly pointing and splurting out words in Italian is to enter, quickly glance round hoping that the thing I need is easy accessible or ‘point-able’, point/grab, pay (praying it isn’t too expensive) and leave. Whole shopping experience in no more than 5 words.
However, I had a challenge to complete. With all the grammatical precision of a billy goat I explained I wanted some flowers (well… duh) and asked for some advice. We picked out some nice margherite gialle (yellow daisies) and something pretty and white (that I have no idea what it’s called in any language). She asked me if I knew how to arrange them. A week ago I would’ve said ‘yes’ just to get out of her hair and then returning home, mutilate them into mush. However today I was honest and said “no”.
She then began to arrange the flowers (miles better than I could have) and resisting the urge to pull out my phone and Whatsapp a photo to my mum, I continued making small talk. I asked how long the shop had been there, how long she’s been there other banal questions like that. Then it was her turn. Aware of my (not-so) ‘subtle’ foreign accent she asked me where I was from, what I was doing in Verona, was I here for love, work or both? Why was I here when so many Italians are leaving? I wasn’t surprised, I hear these questions quite a lot.
I introduced myself and so did she, I paid and said ‘bye’ and left the shop. I balanced my beautiful flowers on my bike and resisted the urge to sing songs from the Sound of Music as my flowers bounced happily in the basket on the ride home. With new vase ‘christened’ I thought back to our chat. While I’m sure it wasn’t the most riveting conversation either of us had had in a while – it was nice to have a bit of human interaction with a stranger, someone who won’t be a stranger next time I visit the florist.
Telling my friends later that evening about my florist trip it turns out that this lady goes to the same church as a friend of mine and is also doing the flowers for another friend’s weddings. Small world.
N.b. Illustration by Eleonora Milani