An advertisement at a bus stop hypes the cheap price of an all-in-one printer/scanner/fax at a local electronics store. Buying such an item has been a pending issue for a month. No one calls with an offer to meet for lunch or go to the beach, which usually happens at such moments.
Most computer and electronics stores are clustered near Ronda Sant Antoni. The metro is the fastest way to get there, but a wall of teenagers blocks the entrance. The bus might take longer, but at least it’s above ground, offering views of Barcelona’s stunning scenery.
At the enclosed bus stop, elderly ladies in ironed blouses and skirts squawk as they wait. The late morning sun sees you perspiring, but their aged madeup faces are free of a single bead of sweat. The long red bus arrives to a joyous, almost youthful, cackle as the women throw the occasional elbow and hip-check to be the first in line.
The old ladies funnel onto the bus, stop and search their bags for their tickets or the change to pay the driver. Everyone then takes the fewest steps possible before stopping. By the time the ticket machine beeps with your ticket, the front of the aisle is standing room only and the bus is chugging along to its next stop.
You lower your head and shoulder through the congestion. There is a free seat at the back, near a teenage girl who talks on her cellphone about her boyfriend, loud enough for the driver to understand her complaints. A serious looking young man, two rows in front, offers his detailed analysis of the new Woody Allen movie. His conversation partner checks her reflection in the window and tosses her hair.
Not being fluent in Spanish makes it easy to tune out the inane conversations, which take place in every country, and your mind jumps to the future, imagining a dark room, a bed and quiet.
Inside the two-story electronics store, there are no signs above aisles. Monitors sit next to washers and dryers while televisions are paired with coffee machines. Employees appear and disappear in a flash and you give chase like a cat hunting a fly.
You finally corner a scrawny teenage boy with a mullet and say, “I’m looking for...”
“We don’t have it.”
“I haven’t told you what yet.”
“We still don’t have it.”
“It’s that all-in-one printer advertised everywhere.”
“I told you,” the store clerk folds his arms across his bony chest, “we don’t have such a thing. It doesn’t even exist.”
“How does it not exist?” you shout to make sure he understands the absurdity of his statement. “Your store is advertising it all over the fucking city.”
He shrugs and repeats, “Look. I’m telling you—it doesn’t exist, okay?”
After one month of thinking about the task, you finally do it and now this little shit denies his own company’s sales campaign? “Do you have anything similar?” you ask, wishing you had the courage to pinch his big nose and twist.
“No,” the clerk says. “Check another store,” strutting away, as if he’s just made a million euro commission.
You think about reporting the kid to his boss. Why bother? He’d just send his assistant to say the manager was busy right now. When people ask what you miss most about home, the answer is service. But when you go back to visit, you hate the fake smiles and chipper, “Hiya. How’s your day?” before pitching the daily specials. One more paradox that comes from living abroad, it seems.