Tuesday, March 07, 2006

blog back log

I've not been connected lately; some recent offline thoughts:

Lots going on…

First, I bought a bicycle, a very exciting purchase that I’ve postponed for too long. I finished in the library earlier than I expected on Friday and stopped in at the biciclettaio that A. recommended. I cruised past the front window trying to figure out if he was open, but it was grimy and covered in signs, “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s bici”, “If the door is locked come look for me at the bar”, etc. I paused there a moment, only to have him scream at me from behind a frame he was repairing, “What, what are you looking at?!” I persisted, stuck my head in the door and asked if he was open. He continued a tough guy routine that softened the longer I stuck around – unless I was really going to buy a bike he wasn’t going to waste any time on me. I admired a few fancy bikes he pointed out and then pointed to the ugly 1970’s model out front and made an offer. From there, we entered a back and forth: “No, that one’s not for you, look at this one”… “Are you sure the lights work? What’s this rust here?” … finally agreeing on a much nicer bike than I’d originally picked out for a great price. As I was leaving with the bike I could hardly get away; he had to tell me all about bicycle thieves in Bologna and, ‘because I like you and you have such pretty eyes’ had to add an extra security measure. Escaping after a half hour’s post-purchase conversation, I rode off to have him yell, “Don’t forget to turn on the lights” down the dim street.
Another great character and great salesperson is the lady at the San Lorenzo pharmacy in the cosmetics section. The polar opposite of the biciclettaio. She speaks very carefully, melodically, soft but exactingly articulated formal Italian. While it’s conceivable for one to walk to the shelf, pick out products and pay at the counter, she preserves an old style of service in which one looks around but waits for her attention. She knows all the products, offers recommendations (which of course involve more purchases than originally intended). And she uses the samples and gifts that typically accompany cosmetics and skincare purchases as if they were really gifts, “For you, I have a special treat, a present, just for you.” It’s an amazing talent; her customers leave beaming and feeling very special and well-looked after.


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