For the most part, I take people as they are. I choose not to judge, because everyone has their own baggage. I also give people the benefit of the doubt because everyone deserves that.
Being darker-skinned in Italy causes different reactions in different people. I’m usually mistaken for French or African, anything but American. Harrumph! Some people dismiss me immediately, and some stare curiously. When they do stare, especially older Italians, I just say ‘buon giorno’ or ‘buona sera’, depending on the time of day. They respond or not, but either way I make an attempt to respond to their curiosity. I also have to remind myself that service people are sometimes short because they are tired, not because they have some bone to pick with Black people. However, I am fully aware of Italy’s racism towards anyone who is not obviously Italian, and it does sit in an accessible drawer in the back of mind’s closet when I am out and about.
I was lost in the Termini station looking for the Tim store to purchase a sim card for my cellular. I found a Wind store, but I didn’t get a good feeling from the rep or the store so I left. I ended up in a diagnostic center – ha! I asked a young woman who looked like she worked there, and she was extremely helpful, especially with my limited Italian. However, another woman came up to her and started speaking to her in Italian while I was talking – right over me – like I wasn’t even standing there. So this young woman stopped her immediately, and told her that she would help her right after she finished helping me. And she called me donna! Well, I understood that part. ‘Donna’ means woman in Italian, but it is also a form of respect. I said thank you, because it was nice of her to do that. A little courtesy never hurt anyone. Ms. Impatient stood for a few moments while I tried to explain that I received incorrect directions from the tourist center to the helpful woman, but apparently I was too slow so she left. Oh well.
I did find the Tim store, and I ran in to another extremely nice representative. She thought I was from England because I spoke English (ha!), and she rushed to tell me that she was visiting that country in the fall. I told her that I wasn’t English, but that I hoped her trip goes well. She thought that my American passport was so pretty – did you know that the newer American passports are quite attractive and they also have a chip?
What’s the lesson? Listen to your gut and follow its lead. If a store rep is dismissive, find another one – or find another store. Thank those who are nice to you. Have a smile in your heart as you go about your day.
Overall, I had another pretty good day. Tomorrow is an Italian holiday and we have off from school. Everything will be closed except in the city center, so that’s where I’m headed.
Wish me more great experiences with nice Italians!