So…I realize it’s not precisely Friday. But I didn’t have any wifi access yesterday, so I apologize for posting so late.
That is so NOT queueing…
- Brit 1: Sorry, are you in the queue? Brit 2: Oh, no I’m not, sorry! Brit 1: Oh, sorry! <both Brits laugh uncontrollably with relief>
- THAT IS NOT QUEUEING! ultimate distress RT
@SoVeryBritish: The distressing moment someone decides to queue by your side [Betsy@btransatlantic]
As I mentioned here, I enjoy translating from British to American. You may not realize this, but Americans do actually know how to queue (we just don’t always know how to spell it). The only difference is that when someone jumps the queue in the UK, bystanders’ reactions vary from catching the eye of another observer and shaking one’s head, to (but only in the most egregious cases) glaring severely at the offender (well, at the back of their head, anyway). Very severely. In the US, when someone jumps the line, reactions can escalate surprisingly quickly from having others verbally berate offenders to physically chastising them with extreme prejudice—depending on how egregious the offense, from stepping in front of other customers waiting for their bacon-kimchi-spiked fried rice burrito from the Korilla Korean/Mex BBQ food truck (verbal), to cutting in on shoppers waiting outside WalMart for doorbuster specials before dawn on BlackFriday (homicidal). And, of course, it also depends on whether it occurs in a state with concealed carry gun laws.
But when I got to Spain this summer, I realized that a lifetime of learned queueing behavior just wasn’t going to work for me. My first hint was at the weekly market, which my daughter and I got up early to attend. (We were, however the only ones. Vendors and customers wandered in at around a very civilized 10:00AM.) The town plaza was filled with stalls displaying absolutely gorgeous vegetables, fruit, and other foods. I wanted it. Lots. There was just one problem. I couldn’t get them to sell it to me.
People milled aimlessly in front of each stall. I caught snatches of conversation, saw them checking their phones, reading newspapers, catching up on local news. I did not see them sort themselves into any sort of queue. Obviously, I kept trying to make one. I stood patiently behind one person after another, only to have the whole group shift just as I thought it was my turn. “It’s like you’re invisible,” my daughter marvelled. More time passed in which I failed to buy anything.
“This isn’t working,” she observed.
I nodded. “We may never eat fruit again.”
“We’ll probably get scurvy and die one of those ugly and super-smelly deaths where stuff oozes a lot.” She sounded intrigued.
Finally, whether from pity or a lull in other customers, the vendor agreed to sell to me. Afraid that I’d never get another chance, I bought some of everything, including an enormous watermelon that proved to be the best one I’ve ever tasted.
As we staggered down the street with bags of fruit, veggies, watermelon, and of course the dog who really wanted to chase every one of the millions of feral town kitties, I saw a butcher shop. “Wait, that’s Marissa’s shop. Our landlady says she’s the best in town. We have to go in.” Wisely, my daughter elected to sit on a shady bench and watch over the dog.
I went into what turned out to be one of the most charming meat shops I’ve ever seen. It was spotlessly clean, full of bright paintings and decor, and included some settees for guests. They were needed because the place was packed. I again did my queueing attempt, but of course that was hopeless. As I waited, I eavesdropped on people greeting each other, asking about families, and gossiping. A hot topic seemed to be someone’s husband who had strayed with a woman from another village—clearly, the biggest offense—and whether the wife should take him back or not. NOT seemed to get the most votes. “Le dije a su madre que era un…” (My baby Spanish translated this as “I told her mother that he was a… and here I believe she inserted a particular part of a dog’s anatomy). Lots of nodding, “Si“, a few head shakes—¿qué se puede hacer? (What can you do?)—before conversations/newspapers/gossip resumed.
But I did start to notice something. When each new customer came into the store, they greeted the group with something along the lines of “¿Quién es el último?” (Who is last?) I’d cracked the code. What looked completely random was actually the most civilized form of queueing I’d ever encountered. The person entering the store simply identifies the last person to enter before him/her, and then all are free to gossip about meandering spouses and beautiful grandchildren until that person is served.
Later that day I shamelessly sat in a bar s-l-o-w-l-y sipping my cerveza (beer) to make it last while I took advantage of the bar wifi. I heard all the church bells tolling, and looked up to see a statue being carried around the plaza. Parents, grandparents, children, and dogs were following, singing, laughing, and having a wonderful time celebrating what I later found was the feast of the Virgen del Carmen. Since the church dates from the thirteenth century, it seems obvious that those following the statue were tracing centuries of their ancestors’ footsteps.
Wondering what other customs I might uncover, I plugged “Traditions” and “Spain” into Amazon as my search term for this week’s Friday Five challenge. Along with a lot of boring-sounding travel guides, I saw one cover that stood out. The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Spanish promised “A guide to understanding the Spanish that views them with the same light-hearted attitude that they themselves display in life.”
Rosie Amber’s Friday Five challenge is to take ONLY FIVE MINUTES to browse an unfamiliar category and select a book based solely on the cover art.
A guide to understanding the Spanish that views them with the same light-hearted attitude that they themselves display in life.
- Book Title: The Xenophobe’s Guide to the Spanish
- Author: Drew Launay
- Genre: Travel
- Publisher: Xenophobe’s Guides; New edition (January 1, 2010)
- Price: $2.79/£1.79
- Reviews: 8 for a total of 3.8 out of 5 stars
- Pages: 92
My Analysis: Although the cover was eye-catching, the blurb was not informative, so I turned to the reviews. There aren’t very many, but most agreed that while the short book was amusing and well-written, it was not particularly accurate. With only a little time left on my five minutes, I blatantly cheated. I googled the title, and found a few excerpts posted here such as “Queuing was not invented by the Spanish and the older generation of Marias (all elderly women are called Maria) don’t understand the concept. For them it is a matter of pride to succeed on getting served first in any shop with as little subtlety as possible. The butcher will serve whoever comes into their line of vision, or whoever has the most interesting piece of gossip.” Whoa! It seemed not only inaccurate, but unrelated to the charming and gracious people I met and things I observed in Spain. (Except for all women having some variation of Maria as one of their names. That actually was a custom, but it’s dying out now.) I think I’ll stick with my own observations.
BUY or PASS: PASS
Here is Rosie’s Friday Five Challenge. It only took five minutes and a couple more to write up, and was a ton of fun. I hope you’ll consider joining in. All Rosie asks is that you link back to her original post here so we can all join in viewing your challenge results.
AUTHORS – You often only have seconds to get a reader to buy your book, is your book cover and book bio up to it?
My Friday Five Challenge is this….. IN ONLY FIVE MINUTES….
- Go to any online book supplier,
- Randomly choose a category,
- Speed through the book covers, choose one which has instantly appealed to your eye,
- Read the book Bio/ Description for this book, and any other details.
- If there are reviews, check out a couple,
- Make an instant decision, would you BUY or PASS?
- I’ll be back next week with another Friday Five Challenge, do feel free to join in.