Saturday, April 29, 2006

Viva yo

Spaniards have a talent for groups. They are delightfully social creatures--able to talk to anyone about anything, and never happier than when surrounded by crowds of other Spaniards all jabbering away. They learn this skill at a young age--a British acquaintance of mine describes with mild amusement watching his children's daycare teachers chastise them for spending too much time on their own.

But they are also inveterate rule-breakers. They may enjoy spending time with other people, but Spaniards never think that the those same people's rules apply to them.

I was reminded of it twice on the same day last week. First, I went to the post office to pick up a certified letter. I stood there alone for the first 20 minutes or so--even though the post office was 'open,' it was also 3pm, right in the middle of lunch time--and when the guy finally showed up, he asked for my passport. I didn't have it with me, but offered my driver's license and credit cards as ID. He insisted that I needed my passport. I started to to recite the number, which I'd memorized. One more time, he told me he needed the passport. And yet all the while, he was filling out the form that showed receipt of the letter. "You always need your passport for mail from the municipal government," he said, handing me the letter. "Hasta luego."

A few hours later I was shopping at a department store. I brought a bunch of clothes into the dressing room, but the attendant stopped me, saying "That's too many." I asked how many I was allowed to take in. She started counting and said, again, "That's too many." I made a gesture like I would leave some with her, if she would just tell me how many I could take in. She said, one more time, in case I had missed it, "That's too many." And then she handed me the chit, and ushered me to the dressing room.

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