It was inevitable that this post would appear sooner or later. Anyone living away from their homeland will find something to whine about, amid the novelty of daily sunshine and new experiences. You usually find that people will diss the same things.
So, I am in Madrid, the capital of Spain. Life is ‘fast’ here; as fast a slug that has spent the night in a bong. Ok, I speak hyperbole, but people rush more in northern, provincial York than in this European capital. NO ONE runs for the Metro, even though the service has been reduced and you can wait up to 10 minutes for a train in the evenings, up to 15 at night. Some us can’t be late for work, not when we have a class waiting to be taught. Which brings me nicely to my first gripe…People here have NO spatial awareness. I’m speed walking through the packed streets, trying to squeeze a 10minute walk into a 5 minute one. Couples, groups, individuals clutter the pavements like time doesn’t exist. I veer left to go round them. They veer left. I veer right; someone walks into my path from the opposite direction. NOBODY EVER moves even slightly aside for you; YOU have to move for THEM. I wonder how people are not constantly colliding into each other. Inside, I scream, “GET OUT of my way! Get out of my fucking way!” and then my students tell me that Madrid is fast-paced. Yeah right, what a load of old cojones.
There is one exception to this Spanish lack of rush, and that is when it comes to toilets in bars, cafes, school etc. There is only one ladies’ loo at work, and in the evening there’s always a rush for it between classes. Just as I start to relieve myself, there is, without fail, frantic knocking at the door. The door is locked; doesn’t that tell you that it the loo is ocupado? Do you really need to knock and rattle the handle like there’s a axe-murderer chasing after you? “Si?” I shout. No reply, just more hectic hammering. Jesus, I think, with my kecks round my knees, is something wrong? “SI?!” I shout, louder this time. The knocking continues and I toy with the very tempting idea of yelling, “FUCK OFF! Just fuck off and let me piss in peace!” But I figure I would rapidly be forced to join Spain’s 27% unemployed if I take this route. So instead, I take my own sweet (Spanish) time while I wee. Ha! Take that. As I unlock the door, I am confronted by four teenage girls. “Is there a problem?” I ask calmly. I’m gonna flush your head down the loo if you do that tomorrow. “No,” they answer. No. Of course there’s not a problem; no axe murderer after you, just you, Spanish you with your ‘fast’ setting that is only activated by a full bladder. “OK,” I reason, “when the door is locked you don’t need to keep knocking, just wait.” “OK,” they barely nod, and I think that they haven’t understood me.
The next day, I wee, sans persistent knocking on the door. Thank you.