Friday, July 22, 2016

Growing Old Impatiently

I don't recall which friend it was, but it was said many a long year ago: one of those expressions that has remained with me ever since. "You can grow old waiting ... (insert as applicable)."

I firstly need to offer a qualification. Generally speaking, I am not impatient, but the potential for growing old is great. I thus attribute a good deal of the ageing process to the causes of likely impatience. These are, in no particular order, the bank, the supermarket, the chemist, the newsagent. There are others: the pedestrian crossing, for instance.

One refers to the phenomena that are each of these especially in the summer, though each has its moments at other times of the year as well. The bank can be dispensed with in comparatively short order. There is one key thing to be aware of: under no circumstances whatsoever attempt to get served in a bank on a Monday. If you have tried this forlorn task, you will be familiar with the multitudes who descend on every available bank branch in order to deposit the weekend's takings - mostly all of it in small coins and brought to the bank in a supermarket plastic bag.

Which brings one conveniently to supermarkets and indeed to plastic bags. While other supermarkets are naturally available, Eroski will be delighted to learn that, despite what's coming, they have managed to secure my loyalty for longer than I care to think about. Grown old? You bet.

Perhaps the first thing to take into account is that if you live in a multi-Eroski environment, which is the case in Alcudia, you need to figure out which one is the least bad, as in least likely to leave you queuing at a checkout for sufficient length of time to require the undertaker being called. It isn't, to be fair, entirely their fault. There are only so many notices that can be put up, reminding customers to weigh their fruit and veg and stick the sticky thing on. However, even if customers achieve this, there is always the sticky thing which has been stuck on in sufficiently awkward fashion to make the bar code unscannable.

We then have the service "encounter" moments, none of which is individually that long but which when combined can make the entire encounter last a short lifetime. For example, "do you want a plastic bag?" This presumably comes from the English manual issued to all staff: the only English it contains. Unfortunately, not all non-Spaniards (and even some Spaniards who are asked the very question) understand English. The bafflement conspires to prolong the "encounter", as do, for instance, the dozens of slips of paper disgorged by the till offering the lucky customer ten per cent off his or her next purchase of toilet duck.

Now we move on to the chemist. Oh dear, where to start? Maybe with the resident and so user of the island's health service whose card reveals that he or she is entitled to receive mostly all pharmaceuticals in stock. Hundreds of them are piled high on the counter, awaiting the removal-by-scalpel procedure of the bit of cardboard packaging. Or maybe with the different nationalities and their individual chemist-going foibles. A Mallorcan pharmacist acquaintance once offered his own national characteristic classification. The most difficult, surprisingly enough, aren't the Germans. Yes, they can be difficult and made more so by the mixed blessing of a pharmacist being able to speak German.

A point to remember with the Germans is that they have such an impressive health system that many of them choose to use it even if they have no particular complaint. It's something of ritual, like having coffee and cake at four in the afternoon, and if they don't go to one of the numerous types of clinic available in even the smallest of towns at least once a week, there must be something wrong with them. Allied to an in any event attention to the minutest of detail, this all leads to an intimate knowledge of every conceivable pharmaceutical, its components and side-effects and so therefore an in-depth and longwinded discussion. For brevity's sake, it is best if the chemist feigns ignorance of the German language.

In fact, the lengthiest encounters, according to my source, are with the locals. There is always the far from small talk of how well is your aunt's third cousin and numerous other relatives, but this is nothing compared with the need to explain at least three times to the more elderly of Mallorcans what it is they are actually being given, of which there is of course the equivalent of a truckload.

Finally, we come to the newsagent. Not because of the newspaper but because of the tobacco. Any doubt about tourist spending is quickly (slowly) dispelled in the newsagent. Grown old? I have passed away and been re-born.

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