Okay, maybe it was actually his lookalike Spanish cousin, but it was an easy mistake to make. Spanish Bob had the Goodfellas look down to perfection as he fiddled with the various plastic parts of our porcelain throne. I couldn’t understand a single word he was saying, but that trademark De Niro tilted head look with devious grimace was coming across loud and clear. This toidy was a puzzler and he wasn’t happy about it.
On the positive side, the toilet was saved and coaxed back into working order, entertainment value not withstanding. Not so much for a few other household items that our handy thespian-lookalike and his helper stopped in to mend. With a total lack of communication happening on both sides, the same scene kept playing out again and again. I showed them the inoperable item, such as a shower enclosure that’s no longer attached to the wall. They spend a number of minutes poking and shaking it with considerable trading of mysterious Spanish verbiage. Then we all do a lot of shoulder-shrugging, pointing and grunting, before they move on to the next item on the repair list. The list doesn’t seem to be getting any shorter, but they’re very pleasant fellows overall.
I’ve actually said the same thing about many of the folks we’re encountered so far on our travels around the city trying to get things bought, signed, transferred and half a dozen other verbs. Spain is rather famous for its slow pace of life. They must be doing something right since they have the longest life expectancy of any country in Europe. The issue isn’t that people don’t work, it’s more about nailing down the right time. Getting the correct opening hours of offices or stores or whatever business you’re visiting is a roll of the dice. In fact, you can literally lose days (not just hours) gambling when is the right time to show up. Key details like opening house that are seldom found online (even fewer are correct if they are online). But when you finally find the magic moment, eureka! Things actually happen remarkably efficiently. Dealing with a multitude of government offices already, I’ve found that once you have the right office and right person, the rubber stamp appears within a few minutes and you’re on to the next roll. It’s light years less painful than a visit to the DMV back home.
So far, the Spanish have been beautifully accommodating and willing to help, lustfully throwing in their limited English with our extremely limited Spanish and moving the process along. It’s been the most pleasant surprise of the journey so far that people are so open to helping. Like the ride says, it’s a small world, after all. And, thankfully, a friendly one.
RANDOM THOUGHTS: Barcelona is literally world-famous for pickpockets, although they tend to be only in the high-traffic tourist areas. On the positive side, I avoided an incident on the Metro the other day when we were suddenly crowded by four people who clearly trying to create a diversion. On the negative side, the reality is that these were lousy pickpockets, because you never see the good ones coming… The friendly Spanish nature I described above doesn’t always hold true for the shopkeepers in the busy tourist area who are inundated with visitors daily. The pain on the faces of these harried folks is universal… After 10 days of sleeping three on an air mattress, a break to the beach was warranted this past weekend. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very good air mattress, but there’s a limit to how many times you can wake up with a 5-year-old’s foot in your ear before it’s time to splurge on some hospitality…