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Yo Quiero Order, or, I am slowly turning into my father.

31 March 2008

We love cities, and Madrid is a fantastic city. Having been deprived of some of the luxuries of urban living for so long, we are both fully enjoying getting back into the lifestyle: the ease of transit, both by foot and metro; the greenery interspersed among the historic towers of concrete and steel; the hustle and bustle of so many people, and, of course, the people watching.

Over the past two weeks, however, I have been watching those same people slowly drive me up the f*cking wall.

I am an ardent supporter of the lackadaisical Mediterranean lifestyle and fully embrace the tranquilo (basically: “slow it down, hombre”) mentality, but can’t these mellow bastards walk in a straight line and on at least ONE side of the road, sidewalk, grocery store aisle, museum hallway, metro staircase or other public venue? Being laid back doesn’t mean there can’t be SOME kind of order and regard for your immediate place in the public sphere. I’m not talking about going all German where they fine you €60 when you’re late for your ping pong club meeting*, but c’mon…

Case in point:
During a recent trip to the grocery store (throughout which I was plagued with a raging headache), I:
• endured 30 minutes of sheer pandemonium while every Spaniard in Madrid, it seemed, scrambled to get to the market before it closed. There was no order, no common sense, no thought as to whether a person’s individual actions affected another. It was as if a giant ant farm full of Spaniards had just been dropped from above and shattered into this market and they were all skittering about trying to figure out what the hell just happened.
• was nearly bowled over 3 times by people not watching where they were going.
• got caught behind some numbskull intent on reading every ingredient on the back of a shampoo bottle whilst standing squarely in the middle of the aisle, oblivious that he was prohibiting traffic in ANY direction.
• received glowering stare-downs from a bunch of old ladies who wouldn’t move so that I could get to the stack of shopping baskets—which, contrary to logic, were not at the front of the store, but nestled behind some register which took 10 minutes to find, and rather than move them to a more accessible spot, the 10 employees of the store were all intent on stacking yogurt in the cooler section.
Needless to say, we won’t be going back to the market anywhere near closing time. Learned our lesson.

Anyway, as I was bitching to Al about my experience on the way home from the market, I commented that I longed for Chicago and the American appreciation of personal space, walking on the right, etc., and speculated that things would be different once we got away from all these Spaniards. She was quick to retort that it’s not Spaniards, it’s people that drive me nuts.

Maybe I need my own island?

*True story: our German friend, Tomas, said that he was in a table tennis club and if you’re late for your match (by even one minute), they fine you €60. Zee beatings vill kontinue oontil morale eemprooves!


11 Comments leave one →
  1. Countess of Cava permalink
    31 March 2008 6:22 pm

    A word of advice from someone who has been grocery shopping for fifty years…NEVER go to the supermarket with a headache of any kind, let alone a raging headache. You are, however, correct about the Mediterranean concept of standing in line…waiting your turn…etc. At closing time in a supermercado it’s every man for himself, Dude!

  2. Spirit of 73 permalink
    31 March 2008 10:42 pm

    On the other hand, a simple, “Me permite?”, “Permiso”, or “Perdon” will get you quick access past the shampoo bottles or to the shopping baskets.

    Damn Americans want to impose themselves wherever they go.

  3. Countess of Cava permalink
    1 April 2008 10:04 am

    Oh so true, Spirit of ’73. Those wonderful “magic words” will work in any culture. (I hope)

  4. Bruce permalink
    1 April 2008 4:29 pm

    MC – It doesn’t sound like you are getting much sympathy.

  5. conison permalink
    1 April 2008 5:37 pm

    “Oooh, hablo español fluentamente! Oooh, soy so mejor! Se las palabras magicas! La la la!”

    How’s the view from your tower there, Spirit of 73?

    I prefer the good ol’ American Stare of Death. Works rather effectively.

    And Bruce-I’m not after sympathy. Only results! Viva la revolucion!!

  6. hoolaha permalink
    2 April 2008 10:36 am

    It is interesting that this entry has generated the most comments!

    MC, what happened to all that training you had negotiating the commissary aisles (wherever we lived) on pay day???

    I love the spanish that I am learning vicariously through this blog. I believe the rough translation of your remarks to Spirit of 73 is “And don’t you think you are all that and a bag of taco chips!” Si?

  7. conison permalink
    2 April 2008 5:43 pm

    Más o menos. He knows damn right what I say.

    As far as commissary navigation, I was never pushing the cart!

  8. Spirit of 73 permalink
    2 April 2008 9:01 pm


    Eso sera, “Hablo español con facilidad.” Y la vista de mi torre es bastante bonita, gracias. Veo a los demas como si fueran hormigas.

  9. conison permalink
    3 April 2008 3:04 pm

    “Mis vaqueros son azules.”

    Consider that the blog equivalent of me flinging mierda in your general direction. (That’s poop in Spanish.)

  10. Spirit of 73 permalink
    4 April 2008 9:31 pm

    If I give you a good deal more credit for throwing aptitude than I suspect you deserve, your flung turd will land approximately 1/10,000 of the way to the Portuguese border and land with a plop, still well within your visual range and quite a bit too remote to cause me any cares. You will have to send me an email to advise me of when the launch took place, as I will have no way of knowing whereas you will have a heap of feces within olfactory reach of your front door as well as a shit-stained right hand.

  11. Spirit of 73 permalink
    4 April 2008 9:37 pm

    It occurs to me, upon reflection, that my above post may have credited you not only with a throwing arm for which I have seen no evidence, but also with a directional sense which is similarly speculative. As like as not, Bilbao will wind up with the balance of Iberian turds shifted infinitesimally in its direction and the Portuguese will be spared the worry, such as it was.

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