A Florence Fiasco

Photo courtesy of Hannah Stewardson

A new country. A new semester. A new culture. Hannah was ready for it all as she packed her bags and headed off to Florence, Italy. She knew it would be a completely different experience compared to college life at Pullman, Washington but she was ready to embrace it. She was in Italy to continue her studies but more importantly, try new things and become a more well-rounded person. Hannah meticulously planned out the details of her trip. She had an agenda of places to visit and experiences to complete. Her organization and thorough planning had been challenged by the nature of traveling but she remained positive.

Her friends had all ventured out many times to local cafes in the area but one afternoon she adventured out on her own and was ready for a change of scenery. She was slowly learning the way Italian society worked. Everything was so different, from the way they drove, how they did their laundry and more importantly to a college sorority girl, how they ordered their coffee.

Photo courtesy of Hannah Stewardson

She excitedly chose a new café. Wandering into the quaint and cozy café, she found a spot at a small table. It was crowded and there was a stranger sitting there but she had learned it is perfectly normal to share a table with someone you don’t know. In America it would be considered socially awkward. But she had begun adapting to this new culture. Hannah knew she had two assignments that she needed to complete while there. After a little bit, Hannah stood up and shuffled through the continuous crowd of people coming and going. She ordered her coffee and briefly chatted with the barista for a few minutes. When she brought out her wallet to pay he waved her off and began helping another customer. Being a little unsure about the custom in this area, she hesitantly made her way back to the table. As she placed the cup on the table she noticed the cute design of the creamer in her coffee. Using her phone she sent out a Snapchat to her friends back home. She focused in on her assignments and tuned out the rest of the world. After an hour, she leaned back in her chair feeling very accomplished. She quickly scratched out a list of other things she wanted to get done that day. Pondering her list she cleaned up her table as she had learned customers clean up after themselves. Grabbing her belongings she wandered out of the café and began the long walk home.

As she strolled along passing beautiful scenery, she thought on how lucky she was to be able to spend a day in Florence, part of the daily life, where she could enjoy and nice cup of coffee and — WAIT! She had forgotten to pay for her coffee! She had just walked out. Simply left. Her heart and jaw mouth dropped. Hannah stopped in her tracks and whipped around. She couldn’t believe she had just walked out. Should she go back? What should she do? Her mind raced and she felt frantic. Her whole body was tense. She took three steps back toward where she had come from before she stopped and turned around.

In a few minutes her heart calmed and she laughed at herself. She was still surprised at herself for walking out without paying. A pang of guilt nagged at her in the back of her mind because she had had such a pleasant conversation with the barista. Hannah wondered if they even noticed. At what point was she supposed to have paid? Shrugging her shoulder she continued walking. In her mind she promised herself to never show her face at the café again.