Ski tuning in Spain falls victim to the 'Rule of Three'
January 30, 2009 —
After living in Spain for the better part of the past six years, I’ve learned a few things about the habits and customs of these Iberians I call neighbors.
Among other things, they either drive too fast or too slow. They’re incredibly giving and open to trusted members of their inner circles, but could give a damn about someone they don’t know. They have damn good food, and eat just about anything that’s fit for human consumption, including the tails, noses, ears, knees, tongues and stomachs of most four-legged creatures.
And I’ve also discovered things aren’t terribly efficient, at least not here in my beloved León, a cultural and historic jewel perched on the northern edge of the northern meseta.
Back in the States, I can rip through a lengthy to-do list eight-deep and still be free for a half day of skiing or nice afternoon bike ride.
In Spain, the same to-do could last days, weeks or sometimes never be completed at all before items that were checked off that list are put back on it.
What might take a half-hour back in the United States converts into an all-day, patience-testing ordeal that typically leads one to drink (thank goodness the wine is very good in León).
I call it the “rule of three.” Simply put, just about anything that might be accomplished with one trip anywhere else in the western world will take three good tries in Spain.
Let me offer a few simple examples:
Earlier this week I needed to photocopy about 20 pages and get it off in the mail before lunch, easy enough? Not in León.
First, I went to my favorite copy shop across the Rio Bernesga, a five-minute stroll from my apartment. Lo siento, Andrés, esta roto! Sorry, it’s broken …
I shrugged and I went to copy shop No. 2, about a 10-minute walk into the heart of historic León, but not before stopping for a coffee and a tasty warm pastry, to fend off the winter chill, of course.
Copy shop No. 2 had a long queue. After patiently waiting, I was informed that they couldn’t possibly do my copies until after lunch, and they wouldn’t re-open until 5 p.m.
I shrugged again. That just wasn’t going to work, so I buzzed over to Copy shop No. 3. No problemo – I was out of there in five minutes – on my third trip.
By now I had the difficult decision of hurrying over to the Post Office and getting the letter in the mail before it closed for lunch, or start my daily tapas circuit of tangy bierzo wine and spicy Spanish chorizo in my favorite downtown bars.
That was the easiest choice of the week. The package could wait.
I’m having less luck with another project this week. The snow is flying up in the Cantabrian mountains and my skis badly need a tune and wax job.
Hoping to the skis worked on this week, I drove over to the sporting goods store where I’ve had my boards tuned before only to discover it is now a furniture store. Strike one.
Then I trudged between three other sporting goods stores. Two didn’t even do it and a third did, but I’d have to drop the skis off on Friday afternoon and pick them up on Monday, scuttling my weekend ski plans. Strike two.
Thinking way outside of the box, I decided to call another shop to query about ski tunes before making the trip. Yes, no problem, bring them by in the afternoon and we’ll have them ready the next day. Eureka!
I packed them back into my car this evening, drove over to the mall and hauled my skis through the shopping masses to run headfirst into yet another Spanish quirk – finding the elusive “person who knows the answer to the question.”
I asked attendant No. 1 about ski tuning. No problem, he points to a far corner of the store, ask over there. Attendant No. 2 said ski tuning wasn’t his department and told me to wait a minute while he found the right person. Attendant No. 3 finally arrives, yes, no problem on the ski tunes, $14, but we cannot possibly do it until next week because the ski tuning machine broken.
This was Strike Three and I still haven’t managed to get my skis tuned.
With all things in Spain, I’ve found the perfect solution to these cultural frustrations: head to a bar. There are lots of them and it doesn’t take three requests to get a cerveza. To pay, well, that’s another story …
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