Saturday, April 26, 2003

I swear this just happened to me. I went down to the Dia discount supermarket (it's a big no-frills chain) to pick up a few things before they close at 8:30 and don't reopen until 9 on Monday. Got some skim milk, muesli, a chocolate bar with almonds, some frozen eggrolls, some of those spinach linguine-like substances, tuna for the cats, cat litter, OJ, and Fanta lemon. Perfectly normal Saturday evening shopping experience, don't you figure? Nope.

A few other people were in line, too, and directly in front of me was a longhair dude and a local progressive-looking university chick who was about 19. I'd seen him hanging around the squat down on the plaza a few times, so I twigged them for squatters. Very ungenerously, the whole time I was waiting in line, they were bickering in wonderful communalist style about who was going to pay for the twelve one-liter bottles of beer they had in their shopping cart.

(By the way, I've heard the two checkout girls, one's Polish and one's from the Philippines, complain that the squatters "borrow" the shopping carts without asking and only infrequently bring them back. When somebody says, "Hey, you can't take those outside the store", they whiningly wheedle, "Come on, be cool." [Venga, tía, enróllate])

So, anyway, the guy, who is Argentinian, says that he's going to pay for one and that some dude named Alejandro gave him five euros to pay for six liters. The hippie-looking girl says you can't buy six liters of beer for five euros and gets out her cellphone and tries to figure it out on the calculator. The guy has to hold back some of his dough, like everything more than the price of a liter, it seems, and repeats that he has Alejandro's five euros several times. Bingo, twigged him, he's a counterculture scam artist.

Then, get this, the girl turns to him and within my hearing, not to mention that of everybody else in line and the checkout girl, and says, "Let the guiri go first while I figure this out." "Guiri" is the fairly mild Spanish ethnic slur, along the lines of "mick" or "kraut" or "wop" in American English, used to refer to people of Northern European ancestry, and the guiri is me. I am a little annoyed, anyway, and plan the devastating comeback line I would use should they actually offer to allow me to jump the queue: "No, no, que las charnegas pasen por delante de los guiris." (No, let the charnegas go before the guiris.) A charnego is "a person of Spanish ancestry" here in Catalonia and is quite an insult--and almost certainly the girl is a charnega, because there are very few Catalans who are "of pure roots".

Unfortunately, they don't let me cut in front of them and I can't use the devastating comeback line. Damn. Just when I had one all ready.

Anyway, they continue to bicker and the hippie girl calls up someone on her cellphone while the longhair dude is trying to scam the checkout girl--he's divided the bottles up into three groups and he's going to pay for his one separately from the ones that Alejandro's fiver is going to take care of, which will be separate from the rest, which the girl is going to pay for. He's trying to confuse her and slip past a couple of the bottles while she's making change from the one he bought and then the ones Alejandro's fiver bought, if you follow me. The checkout girl doesn't let him. She is no dummy. The girl talking on the cellphone is shafted because she winds up having to pay for like eight of their twelve bottles herself.

Anyway, I take care of all my business, the Philippine girl checks me out, I pay with exact change, and get out of there while the squatters still haven't bagged up their stuff and are arguing because the girl had to come up with like twelve euros for whatever the amount of beer she had to pay for was.

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