For the most part I have learned to just take a deep breath when I come to a screeching halt behind the many, many, many pedestrians who move slower than snails towards their destinations. Then I take a deeper breath when those snailestrians stand shoulder-to-shoulder blocking all hopes of a passing lane.
I have come to marvel at the social phenomenon of truly living-in-the-moment and not rushing through conversations, no matter where they take place and no matter who else has to press the pause button on their lives as a result. In the grocery store as a customer checks out they may strike-up a conversation with the cashier – a very nice notion indeed. But that cashier’s attention is then 100% handed over to the conversation making it virtually impossible to continue swiping items over the scanner. As the line builds with customers, no one shuffles in place, not a single “ahem” is uttered to help remind the cashier of what her job actually entails (according to American standards) and no one would even think of pulling the ultra-American maneuver of suggesting aloud that one of the other three empty checkout lines be opened. That wouldn’t be possible anyway because the other workers, sprinkled throughout the store, are gathered in their own conversations with each other. The sense of urgency seems to be lost here as if we were living out in the country and not a metropolitan city. In the almost seven months since I arrived in Barcelona, there has been just one single customer who was visibly in such a hurry that she was couldn’t take the wait and asked if she could go in front of me in line.
I have done my best to take things as they come, to deal with the trying experiences that “Life 2.0” has given me and I know that my newfound patience has made me healthier in so many ways. But everyone has a boiling point and I just hit mine.
In the last few days I learned of the national strike that will be taking place in Spain on Thursday, March 29. The strike is to fight the severe labor laws put in place when the new presidency began in December. The new laws make it easier for employers to reduce salaries and fire workers. With more than 23% unemployment in Spain, the last thing that those who do have jobs need is a greater threat that they could lose the precious work that they do have. The budgets for 2012 are due on March 30 and so, on March 29 there will be a strike that will shut down businesses and services including a huge reduction in public transportation and domestic and international flights. Right now they say that 40% of international flights will run. Who knows if mine will be one of them . . .
After almost seven months since leaving Chicago, I am extremely excited to make my first trip home on Thursday morning. But, because of the strike, I spent almost an hour on the phone (via Google phone) in the past two days with Orbitz as they tried to see if Delta will waive the charges to change the ticket to another day. Since Delta doesn’t have official word yet on which flights will be affected they aren’t ready to waive fees and changing the ticket now would cost $700 – that’s $200 more than the ticket even cost in the first place. I did buy trip insurance but that doesn’t cover this situation. So Orbitz recommends that I call back tomorrow to see if there are any updates on the situation. I have students that I need to inform and reschedule and squeeze in for makeups at some point if I have to lose a day of class. I try to focus on the fact that I know everything will work out one way or another, I just wish I could fast forward a couple of days and be home already and have this ordeal over with.
And so, in the wise words of Frank Costanza, “Serenity now!”