El frío norte
Let me tell you about a little anecdote that happened on one of my last flights to Madrid, about two years ago, I guess. I was on the plane from Zurich to Madrid, way in the back, and behind me was a Spanish gentleman, in his early sixties, I’d say. He had apparently flown into Zurich from somewhere else, and he had left something on his earlier plane. He pleaded with the flight attendant – who spoke Spanish, because in Switzerland, we speak languages – to allow him off this plane and back on the other to retrieve his item. Now, anyone who’s ever had to deal with airport security in any way knows that neither thing is gonna happen. Our flying still happens in a headspace of absolute paranoia, and regulations are tighter than Barack Obama is with Joe Biden. The man was told he could file a missing items report, and staff at the airport would do the rest.
The gentleman was not pleased. He lamented the lack of understanding in his interlocutor and lambasted the condition of both our country and our hearts. He felt that in Spain, people would have gone out of their way to accommodate him, but here, „en el frío norte“, in the cold north, we were too stuck on rules and regulations to help out a soul in need. I laughed a little, when I heard him speak about the cold north. He inversed the order of words – in Spanish, the adjective goes after the noun – to make his plight more poetic and dramatic. But my laughter also held no small amount of bitterness, because not only was the flight attendant already indulging this guy above and beyond the call of duty, Spain was and is the country where I have found the most abysmal customer service to date. I have never had the misfortune to speak to less helpful people than the employees of a particular mobile phone operator there; certainly NO ONE has ever gone out of their way to be accomodating, not even with shit that was entirely of their own making. There. In the warm south.
That bitterness, it tells me everything about my relationship to Spain, 25 years later. It is the bitterness of a broken heart. Because, you see, I once loved Spain, with the vigor and temperament of youth. But yeah, as they say, love is blind. Because, clearly, I loved the idea of Spain before I knew the reality of it.