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  • 9-13 17-20

Say it with flowers in times of Whats App

“M idway in my life’s journey I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood”.

Here am I, like Dante’s father lost and worried by the events of our disturbing times. A florist’s seems a peaceful place to be : pretty window displays, beautiful flowers, baskets of plants outside. I should be the smiling shopkeeper with the green apron. Perhaps it was like that till a few years ago. The phone would ring and I would take an order:

“I need a beautiful composition” they would say.

“I am in love”, “I need to say thank you”, “it is for a funeral”,” I have been invited to lunch”....

There were may different requirements, sentiments and expectations. My parents, like poets, created according to the state of mind of the client, with colours leaves and careful use of shapes and styles, the right feeling the client wanted to share with the receiver. They knew the flowers would have spoken better than words the sentiment of their customer.

I remember customers who would come into the shop thanking my father for the wonderful bouquets which had excited quantities of appreciation.

It was a normal occurence and that sort of normality I found energising, as it made me believe in my work and love my customers.

whatsapp

Then, something started to change. In the 80s, we used to get an America TV series called Visitors. It was about aliens who took over the Earth. They did this by strategic substitution. Men began to disappear and the aliens would take their place. The only way to tell the difference was to see when their skin was scratched if they bled or exuded green slime.

Well, that is what has happened now. Technology, which in the first instance was fascinating and exciting, has gradually started to distort our rapport with reality. Ever more frequently, people wander into the shop with their mobile phones to their ears as though they were a natural extension of the body.

And this is not the only strangeness. People no longer seem to see the dichotomy; the distinction between what they can see in a picture and that which is really in front of them. I will explain this better. All florists are associated with some international floral delivery service. This means that the customer is assisted by means of images in the choice of the flowers to be delivered.

Every organization in their conditions of sale will advise that the final composition may vary due to season and demand. Whatever the final compostion , the customer is guaranteed one of the same value both artistically speaking and in money terms.

This is all fine until those Visitors who have substituted humans turn up. This happens.

A girl keeps the delivery man prisoner as she sends a virtual picture of the flowers she received to her boyfriend - on the other side of the world- who sent them, so he can compare them to those ordered on WhatsApp. Just to see if it is the same bouquet as the one chosen!

Worse still, an employee of the best known international floral delivery service calls me to tell me that the composition was not the same as the photo. She, too, had been substituted by a Visitor. Had she been human, she would have been able to read the conditions of sale, yet she carried on repeating herself that the composition offered had three roses and seven had been put in the one delivered. Seeing there was little chance of reprieve, I called the client who had received the composition called “Sushi”. The young lady was mortified by the whole situation and confirmed that the flowers were lovely but her boyfriend who was on the other side of the planet said that he wanted them changed or his money back, as the flowers delivered were different from those shown in the virtual catalogue. I suggest she could speak with her boyfriend just to confirm the quality of the composition if she, as she professed, found it attractive, and then I invited them both to the shop next time he comes to Salerno, to choose some flowers as a gift from our company.

To cut a long story short, the order is cancelled and I lose the money.

What I find so disheartening is that there can no longer be reasonable personal communication. A virtual picture has been the cause of a complete breakdown of normal communication. Anthropologists, who are seriously worried about such phenomena, have realized that “ a whole section of humanity is risking getting caught out by a game of mirrors which virtual reality has set up and in which people lose themselves and their grip on reality” (Marc Auge’)

Is this a failure of tecnology to deliver? I cannot answer that but of one thing I am sure: the Visitors have no creativity, no imagination and above all are incapable of saying thank you.

So let’s be careful!

Anny Pellecchia

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