Do I file this under grumpy old dad or simply shrug my shoulders and compartmentalise it away in my mind under “This is Spain”?
Ever heard of a high street business called “Work Centre”? A place where you can go and print, photocopy or laminate drawings and documents. They also sell a range of stationery and provide a photo printing service so can be quite useful at times. Anyway, I am sure you will be familiar with such places whatever they may be called in your country. Work Centre is widespread in Spain with offices all over Madrid.
I have used the one nearest our house on a few occasions. Last Monday was one such day.
(No) Work Centre….
I only wanted a single page. It took me nearly 10 minutes. That may not seem like a long time so let me explain. When I walked in there were 4 employees in the “work centre” and only one other customer. The customer was being attended to while the three other employees were stood in one corner talking about…well nothing in particular, but certainly not about work. The “work centre” was more like a No Work Centre. Even when one of the three attempted to join the world of work it took him forever just to print my page. Continually stopping to join in the conversation with his co-workers. Or should that be no-workers? What’s that thing people say about multi-tasking? Well you get the picture I am sure. The whole thing should have taken no more than two minutes. By now a third customer had entered the work free zone and was only attended to because the first customer was just leaving.
This is classic Spain. Not only Spain of course but definitely classic Spain. One of the things that most pisses people off about the place is ironically one of the things that makes it such a fun country to be in. Some call it a care-free attitude. But it can also be interpreted as a ‘couldn’t give a shit’ attitude – especially when it comes to work.
Paying Bills into the Bank
Although the most recent and fresh in my mind, this is nowhere near the best example I can come up with. That prize goes to a bank close to where we lived when Dani was first born.
I can’t recall which bank but it hardly matters. All banks in Spain – as far as I am aware – have similar odd policies of only allowing you to pay certain bills on specific days and times.
OK. If you are not Spanish or do not live in Spain let me explain…
If you want to pay a gas or electric bill then banks will only take the money/cheque from you on (say) Tuesday mornings between 10am and 11am. If it is a bill related to the town hall then this may be during a different timeframe, say Wednesday mornings between 10amm and midday. I really do not have the exact details to hand and certainly not for every bank but that is more or less how it works.
This one particular day – several years ago – I had to pay something to the town hall. It was that long ago I cannot even remember what it was. I went into the bank about 2 minutes past 11 o’clock fully aware of the strange rules for making payments.
The Conversation – Real and Imagined
The bank clerk looked at me then looked at the paperwork I had slid under his nose. He looked at me again and pointed to a small notice just to my left (his right). It said that these bills could only be paid into the bank between 10 and 11am on Tuesdays. It was a Tuesday. I didn’t need to think about that one. I looked over my shoulder quickly at the bank’s wall clock and saw that it was just past 11am.
I looked at the bank teller and questioned, “No?” – as if to shout “are you taking the f***ing piss or what?!”
“No” he replied calmly, again pointing to the sign to his right – no doubt implying “can’t you f***ing read?”
Again I turned to look around over my shoulder – slowly this time – scanning the empty bank behind me. The only other people in there were more bank employees. There were five of us in total.
I turned to face the bank clerk again almost in slow motion as if to emphasise the fact that time was standing still in this place and not a lot was happening.
“En serio?” I pleaded (Really?) – meaning, “There is nobody else in here for f*** sake!”
Then I looked over – almost gesturing – towards his co-workers who were busy doing not a great deal and repeated my plea.
“En serio ?!!” – by now in a tone which at the very least suggested, “are you really that much of a c**t?”
“No” he said again; probably thinking “I wish this foreign prick would f**k off and leave me in peace”.
So, defeated and deflated, I turned in despair muttering some profanities under my breath as I traipsed out of this pretend ‘bank’.
Sometimes that is just the way it goes in Spain. The over-bearing weight of bureaucracy that some people pretend is a hangover from the Franco era is in fact ingrained in almost every aspect of business life whether it is public or private sector. Or to put it another way; simply trying to get basic things done in Spain can, at times, be a real pain in the arse.
This kind of thing is supposedly rife these days. And clearly not only in Spain. It has been well documented by newspaper columnists and several explanations offered. One of them is that there is real a sense of entitlement in the younger generations today.
I will buy into that one. Or is that just me getting old? You tell me.