There are some things regarding how the Spanish do things that are incredibly inane. There are some things that I just don’t understand, there are some things that make no sense at all and at the same time, there are some things that they do rather logically. This idea can be made between any country. I’m just here now, so my comparison is with how I know things (US upbringing) and Spanish living.
The governmental, corporate or regular rule-binding institutions are strange here because it often seems that the “rules” are intermittent. It seems that any specific regulations are more like guidelines. Multiple times I have either experienced or heard stories of Spaniards in positions of authority (no matter how big or small) where the rules may have been skirted around a little. Again, there are situations where they just can’t even seem to think about bending the rules all. It’s almost as if they haven’t been able to find the happy medium between 1975 and 2015. In 1975 the Spanish long-time Fascist dictator passed away. Francisco Franco was the reigning dictator for almost 40 years and when he passed away the Spanish world hit AppleR on the liberty board and refreshed all they knew about rules, regulations and Public Display of Affection. 40 years exactly has passed since Spain was under lock and key and personally, I think there is still a small struggle between following the rules exactly as is, while never questioning authority and acting in the complete opposite manner, going above and beyond with liberalism, progressiveness and, still, maybe not asking questions. Maybe people do the complete opposite because they can and they won’t get thrown in jail or reprimanded, perhaps they don’t know the rules, there is lack of training, or maybe because they simply don’t care? Lack of following the rules could mean that there really aren’t any rules and we perceive there should be since how can we ever go on without law and order? During my small-medium stay in Spain (6 months in Granada in 2007-2008), 9 months (2009-2010) and now two years from 2015 – 2017 I have experienced a plethora of the two.
At times this causes me to go a little insane and on the contrary, as an intermittent hypocrite, I do vastly appreciate when the rules are broken. I will honestly admit I am moderately enraged when governmental institutions close in the middle of the day (banks and post offices), pick and choose which papers (and when) they will accept for an application for a residence card, a midnight delivery, or 7am jack hammering construction.
…..a few times it has worked to my advantage, this liberty we speak of.
I was a fan of the lack of rule abiding airport security agents in 2008. I was flying back from Barcelona. I knew it was wrong, but I still wanted to see if I could do it. I had two large bottles of shampoo & conditioner in my carry-on (Ryan Air). And of course they were too big to take on the plane. Of course they were too much liquid to take as a carry on, but I tried. The Spanish security agent while going through security opened my bag, said, “tú no puedes llevar estas botellas tan grande”, y yo, con una diabilita adentro dije, “but, they’re mine and they’re expensive”. He opened he plastic bag they were in, saw they had oozed out a little bit, snarled u his face in a very common Spanish manner, closed the bag and said, “just don’t show anyone”. I solemnly nodded and said, “oh, of course not”. In my head I was thinking, “No sir, i know this isn’t a “hairport” (har har har), and I don’t plan on washing my hair.”
I was also a fan of this liberalism with rules when I flew to Barcelona (via Vueling) just recently. We had scrutinized the Vueling website to see their rules on carry on quantity and size and due to the €26 carry on fee we decided to share a carry on bag. We smashed that thing full of our personal items. When we arrived to the Madrid airport the attendant delivered the pleasant news that we wouldn’t have to pay for our bag. Oh, how nice! However, when we were returning to Madrid and checking in in Barcelona we were informed it would very effectively be €26 for the bag. When we asked what the difference was, the female attendant laughed with her male colleague about how the Madrileños just couldn’t seem to every follow the rules. I’m sorry, but is that acceptable? They’re the same airline! I was torn, because once again, I wished for rules and consistency, but I was glad to have saved €26 on the way in.
In 2008, when living in Cádiz, my landlord ordered a new mattress for me. How nice it was to have the new, firm and soothing place to lay my head. What was quite strange for me though was that they delivered it to “Indiana Jones” (that’s another story in itself) and at 10pm at night. I was terribly happy about the delivery of a new bed, and happy, that thank goodness, I happened to be at home. I just imagined this man meandering around the narrow, cobblestone streets of Cádiz in the middle of the night without a delivery van, due to lack of space with a mattress on his back. I suppose if I had not been at home, he would at least have a place to sleep while waiting for me return.
Once I dropped my keys down the elevator shaft of my apartment building. I was able to retrieve them in less than one day by a kind and patient 85 year old landlord and understanding portero.
What hasn’t worked to my advantage, or anyone’s, is the incredibly taxing and bureaucratic (paper pushing) visa and residence card process.
Another, very strange, phenomenon is the delivery of mail and los correos in general. I mailed post cards the week I arrived (January 3rd) and they’ve just begun arriving to the United States. You may be thinking, “who writes post cards still?”, I do. My Mom once sent three amazing, beautiful Christmas packages to me in Spain and they arrived on time and with no harm. I’ve been waiting a few weeks for another delivery. How do they choose what, when and with what speed they are going to accept and delivery mail? It’s a very ambiguous system.
The most recent instance of how glad I was for the election of rule bending was last Saturday, February 14th. Oh, yes, it was Valentine’s Day.
On Saturday, Feb 14th, I was delivered flowers and a teddy bear while studying at Starbucks on c/ Texeira and Brasil. About 12pm I was sent a text message by the delivery company that a package was attempted to be delivered to my flat, but no one was there to take it. They provided a number to call and I called. I was so pleasantly surprised that in less than three rings a very friendly woman answered. Not only did she smile in her voice, but she was patient with my Spanish and went beyond her required job specifications, which, is more than often, a rarity in Spanish customer service.
I mentioned to her that I was very close, just three blocks away, and could come meet the delivery man anywhere! I wanted my V-day surprise so badly! She said, “espera un momento”. And I waited, un momento.
After about three momentos the friendly customer service rep came back on the line and asked specifically where I was. I said, “Well I’m studying at the eStarbucks on c/ Texeira and Brasil”. She quickly put me back on hold. Tw more minutes she came back on the line and said she had inquired with her messenger to see if he could delivery my package to the Starbucks. I thought, are you kidding me? That’s an option! Awesome!
Of course I was extremely grateful and giddy. She quickly hung up and I quickly waited. I hurried up and waited. I tapped my foot and jittered my hand. I tried to focus and study, but there was not focusing. I was all jacked up on coffee and couldn’t believe I was getting a special delivery at the coffee capital. It was so simple but so out of the norm. Of course I thought every person walking in or around the Starbucks was the delivery person. However, none of it made sense.
Of course the tall, lengthy man with bike shorts and spiked bicycle shoes was not going to be delivering my a teddy bear and a bouquet of roses. I almost walked half way across the Starbucks to accost a street vendor selling single roses and probably haunted all the patrons of the coffee shop with my blatant and over curious stares.
About 45 minutes later it was completely obvious who was delivering me my package. It was the gentleman in a delivery company outfit (like the Spanish version of UPS or DHL), completely obvious with his digital pad to sign and a box in his arm, with a truck out front.
What an incredibly lucky lady! How often does one get to be delivered a bouquet of three beautiful Cabernet Sauvignon roses, with a totally adorable double-teddy bear and the most perfect of notes to one of her most favorite places in the world? I was in fact quite spoiled at that moment by the world.
The world has a funny way of pampering me sometimes. Excuse me, life, would you just go ahead and make my day at one of my most favorite places? Flowers at Starbucks, please? 🙂