“Ok, bella, listen to me. Here’s your key, and the lock sticks a little bit but you shouldn’t have any problems.”
My host “mother” in Italy was giving me instructions on how to navigate the house when I came home late at night. I was excited – it was my first evening out in Siena with a few of the girls I had met in my language class.
“And it’ll be dark in here, because you know, electricity costs so I don’t leave any lights on. Just make sure you don’t run into the uomo morto in the hallway, ok bella?” She turned to go back into the kitchen.
“Ok, Tina. Grazie!” I turned to leave but… Wait. WHAT?! I felt my mouth fall open in disbelief.
Sure, I had come to Italy to improve my Italian, but I was fairly certain she had just nonchalantly dropped it into the conversation that there would be a dead man waiting to greet me upon my re-entry later that evening. What the heck kind of house was this!??
“Tina!” I whirled around and followed her into the kitchen. “What do you mean, don’t run into the dead man. Who’s the dead man?!” I all but cried, eyes wide at the prospect of meeting some creepy guy who would probably strangle me with spaghetti…or lead me to some equally tragic Italian death.
One look at the horror that was plastered all over my face, and Tina burst into a full-bodied laugh.
“Ahhh!” She said wiping her eyes and leading me back into the death-trap hallway. “This!” She pointed to a wooden coat rack. I felt my body go lax with relief, and I too, started to laugh.
“In Italian we call it a uomo morto, yes, but it’s just a place to hang your coat!”
Shaking my head at myself, I stepped out into the night and vowed that I would brush up on my Italian idioms as soon as possible.