I sometimes wonder whether I talk too quietly for Spanish ears that are used to being shouted at and assailed by round-the-clock café and bar music. This conversation today is not the first to leave me asking myself if my pronunciation can really be that bad. The scene is the lobby of a new small hotel I’ve just noticed down in the old quarter:-
Me (in Spanish, of course): Do you have a folleto (pronounced ‘foyeto’) of the hotel?
Receptionist: ¿Una tarjeta?
Just after this, I went to the Vodafone shop to talk about moving away from Orange. As you’d expect in Spain, this was a paper and signature-rich experience. In fact, I had to sign in three places on one piece. Anyway, all went well until we reached this point:-
Do you have the official piece of paper with your NIE [foreigners’ identity number] on it?
You’ve just seen and photocopied my residence card with my NIE on it.
Yes but these are not valid any more and we need to make a copy of the new form they issue.
My card doesn’t expire until 2011.
Yes but we need the new form.
No you don’t and if my card’s good enough for the Tax Office, my bank and the supermarkets it’s good enough for you.
But we need the new form.
Well, I haven’t got one and I’m not about to go and get one. My NIE is on the card you've just copied. If it's not valid, why did you copy it?
OK. No problem.
Then I was told off in the vegetable shop for breaking a huge piece of ginger into two halves. Even though I was buying both of them.
A frustrating sort of day really, as after Google had advised me this morning of changes to the format of their Gmail page I had problems getting into both their ‘Dashboard” and into Google Reader and then back to my email page. Surely no coincidence but can they really have cocked up so royally? Incidentally, the advice from Google was “We have pruned our pixels”. Presumably telling you they’d simplified the page is just too old-fashioned and un-hip.
Accustomed as I am to thinking of Spanish trains as pretty damn good these days, it was a shock to receive these details of a trip to France made my a friend of mine last Sunday:-
1. Arrived at local station to be told there was no train because of a technical problem
2. Advised we’d be getting a bus to León and picking up a train there
3. Advised that the bus had been cancelled
4. Advised that we would now be getting a bus sent from Vigo to take us up to Ourense and catching a train there
5. Advised that the bus from Vigo hadn’t arrived and we’d be going by taxi to Ourense
6. Taken by taxi to Ourense
7. Caught a train there in which the air-conditioning had broken, in temperatures of 30+
8. Arrived at the border several hours late
9. Got to my hotel very late. Kitchen closed. No dinner.
As she put it, “A routine trip to or from Galicia”. So I really shouldn’t have been shocked. I know this line to France is very much a poor relation.
And, to complete this saga of service problems, I’ll just say that anyone wanting to use the ALSA BUS web page should be prepared for a lot of frustration. In a word, it’s useless. At least if you’re trying to find out how your daughter can get from Oporto airport to Vigo. Ironically, the company has as its logo – “Making travel simpler”. But it would, wouldn’t it?
Finally . . . The good news. I engaged my new friend in the bar today and stared him straight in the eyes while we went through an editorial in the Voz de Galicia. He seemed thrilled. And gave me rather more details of his life and health than I really wanted. But he’s a retired surgeon so at least I’ve gained a good enchufe. And these things count in Spain.