Wednesday, November 23, 2005

A SHORT ESSAY ABOUT NOTHING.




Holidays (i.e., fiestas) in Spain are like vacations in Hawaii.  Why?  Because they seem so appealing beforehand, but once they begin....you find yourself sitting around with NOTHING to do.
 
The last quarter of the year is an especially fertile time for holidays—whether national, provincial or local.  October 12 is Virgin of Pilar Day.  November 1 is All Saints’ Day.  November 9 is La Alumdena (i.e., the patron saint of Madrid) Day.  December 6 is Constitution Day.  December 8 is Immaculate Conception Day.  The list goes on and on.
 
This usually causes consternation amongst my co-workers in places like Finland and South Africa.  And year after year, the script remains the same.
 
SAL’S EMAIL TO CO-WORKERS:  “Please be advised that [insert date] is a holiday in Spain, and I will be out of the office and unavailable.  If you need assistance during my absence, then please contact one of my colleagues based in a non-Catholic country.”
 
CO-WORKER’S EMAIL TO SAL:   “What?!  Another holiday?!!!  Which is it this week?”
 
SAL’S EMAIL:  “I’m not sure, but I think it has something to do with the Patron Saint of Peanut Brittle.”
 
CO-WORKER’S EMAIL:  “Unbelievable!  I’m heading straight to Human Resources and demanding a transfer to Spain.”
 
Their envy is understandable, but they fail to grasp the important point: a holiday means twenty-four catatonic hours with NOTHING to do.  

Yes, yes, yes…I know that I’m being churlish.  But look at it from my perspective.  I was raised in the US—a country in which the word “holiday” doesn’t mean a day of rest.  It means a day of shopping.  A *glorious* day of shopping!
 
But in Spain, the only retail establishments that open on holidays are bread stores and bars.  But that’s it!  As soon as I’ve bought a baguette and drunk a café con leche, I find myself pondering the same recurring question:  What the hell am I going to do for the next fifteen hours?
 
The answer is always the same:  NOTHING!
 
Now…before my editors start receiving angry letters, let me make one thing clear.  I’m not knocking Spain for any of this.  To the contrary, I believe that Spain has gotten it right.  A holiday *should* involve staying at home and spending a relaxing, rejuvenating day with one’s family and/or satellite dish.  But for me, this scenario is the third ring of hell.  Yes, I admit it.  *I’m* the one with the problem.
 
That’s not to say that haven’t tried to overcome the problem.  Quite the contrary.  During my first years in Spain, I made diligent attempts to embrace—and yes, even to enjoy—the opportunity for reflection and meditation that each holiday brought. 

And it worked! It worked beautifully! But, unfortunately, it only worked until I had bought a baguette and drunk a café con leche--after which point, my lower lip would begin sagging to floor until it finally came to rest within an expanding puddle of drool.

But with age comes acceptance—and I’ve now accepted the fact that the Spanish concept of holidays is…well…is unacceptable.  So I’ve adopted a different approach. Whenever there’s a holiday, I wake up early...put on a tie...sit at my desk...and write threatening letters to imaginary customers demanding that they pay imaginary invoices or else I’ll be forced to contact my imaginary Legal Department.

I know it’s silly. I know it’s pathetic. But it’s the only way I can cope with the tedium. That’s me. That’s the way I am. And there’s NOTHING that I can do about it.

13 Comments:

At 8:28 PM, Blogger hippo_pepperpot said...

maybe you could get some strippers to come over for some smoked pork? That should spice things up?!

 
At 11:16 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Hey Hippo:

Thanks for the vote of confidence on my libido. But at my ripe old age, I'd likely send the strippers home and eat all the pork myself.

Sal

 
At 11:18 PM, Blogger christina said...

Wow, Hippo always has the BEST ideas! You're not THAT old, Sal.

Same thing in Germany with the holidays - two or three days of *everything* locked up tight and no place to go. Zzzzz...

 
At 1:03 PM, Blogger Anne said...

I know what you mean. It was the same in Poland, everything shut on Catholic holidays. You can't even buy milk.
My thoughts then were as they are now - isn't that whst they make CSI as a box set are for?

 
At 1:38 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Hey Anne:

Welcome! You're a first-time Commenter. You're also Caffe Franje's friend, right?

I've never watched CSI, but my father is a fan. There seeem to be 13,000 different CSI versions: CSI Miami, CSI Topeka, CSI Vladivosktok, and coming this fall...CSI Third Ring of Saturn. So many decisions; so little decisiveness.

I note from your blog that you are a Jack Kerouac fan. I've never read his stuff, but have been anxious to read "On the Road" since discovering that the main character is named "Sal." Believe me, that doesn't happen often.

Thanks for checking in. I envy the culinary opportunities that await you in France.

Sal "Paradise" DeTraglia

 
At 5:58 PM, Blogger Angie said...

Sal,

Perhaps you could write a novel? You could have it done in a year's worth of holidays! That's what I need, because at this rate, I'm never going to finish mine. ;)
Only Thanksgiving Day off... it's Friday, and I'm back at work! Alas. (And that is also my pathetic excuse for lack of blogging lately!)

Snow came early this year. Gotta get back to reporting in the cold, cold, cold Indiana winter... ah, Spain, how I miss thee.

 
At 8:32 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

Angelina:

You may be busy, but not too busy to report the touching story of a wet-wetting German drunk lighting his house on fire.

It's true...we do make time for the important things in life.

Two holidays the week after next. I think I'll write "War and Peace."

Sal

 
At 8:58 PM, Blogger Angie said...

What can I say -- I'm all about "news you can use." -Ang

 
At 6:09 AM, Blogger Lisa said...

wow, seeing as you're a couple of years younger than I am, the libido comment really stung.
As to your question on my site, yes, Pau is Catalan. He's also the same friend that was supposed to visit over Christmas. Unfortunately, (for me and my conquitos) he won't be able to come this year now. Its too bad. I was really looking forward to trying those candies that you love so much...oh, and yeah, its too bad Pau can't come too.

 
At 12:47 PM, Blogger GC PHILO said...

Someone told me that Spain has the most public holidays in Europe and Andalucia has the most public holidays in Spain. In other words, let the good times roll!

 
At 8:47 PM, Blogger ironporer said...

I suppose of all the things I disliked in Spain, the stores being closed on Holidays (1/2 the year almost) and Sundays was one of my biggest pet peeves also. Though I could usually find a few more things to do (drink a lot more than one cafe con leche at the local bar/cafe) on many of those days. And you are right about the Holidays there... I can not imagine running a buisiness where there are 28 paid holidays, plus 30 days vacation plus 2 extra months pay (though as December approaches, I think the USA should adopt this law!) plus unlimited sick days, plus paid medical leave..... on and on ad nauseum.
My wife informs me that in ZZA the Corte Ingles now can open a few Sundays during Navidad season. Wow!! Maybe that'll get walmart to come over there lol!

 
At 9:08 PM, Blogger Kath said...

I don't get it!! Ireland is a 'Catholic country' yet I have way less holidays to sit through than you. What gives? Did you guys kill off (sorry - martyr) more saints than we did or what?

 
At 5:48 PM, Blogger Sal DeTraglia said...

GC Philco: More holidays in Andalucia? And you're in Cadiz? Oh man, you must be eating a lot of baguettes and drinking a lot of cafes con leche. I feel for you, man.

Iron Man: I hardly ever set foot in a Wal-Mart when I lived in the US. But I must admit...I'd kill to have one here. People claim that El Corte Ingles has everything, but it seems like 9 times out of 10 they don't have what I'm looking for. And yes, I consider Sundays to be holidays. They're just as bad. Sundays are good for nothing except laziness and depression. C'mon! Business days are supposed to be for laziness and depression.

One Little Piggy: I think the problem is that you guys are so naughty on St. Patrick's Days, the government decided to do away with the others for reasons of general public welfare.

 

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