That’s the retort I hear from my husband when I complain about the pace of some Spanish workers to get things done, “Spain is different,” he says to calm my annoyance. The Spanish are known for their laid back style of enjoying meals and life in general, and that’s one thing many an American can learn from. But the Spanish have also to learn from Americans when things need to move forward. I’m used to service ara mateix, right now, when you are paying for a service. I cannot get used to the constant pause and restart of some sectors to finish or begin a job. Here’s my story.
When we bought our piso we were proud of the raised terrace and the amount of uncultivated garden we could later landscape. With time we saw we would have to pave part of the garden because growing herba was out of the question in our north facing apartment. We have hired paletas (Spanish word for construction worker) or treballadors de la construcció to lay cement and pave a section of our garden. Here’s their schedule.
Arrive between 9:00-9:30 a.m.
Break 10:30-11:00 a.m.
Lunch 2:00-2:45? p.m.
Leave 5:00-5:30 p.m.
The treballadors arrived yesterday with their bosses past noon because they were out purchasing material. OK, fine.So they didn’t start at 9:00 a.m. as they said they would. They then left at 1:15 to eat and returned at 2:00 without their bosses. One worker is named Eusebio and the other Marco. Eusebio is in his mid 50s and Marco in his early 30s. I see that they begin to remove some of the wooden steps from the terrace and at about 2:30 they stopped and stood looking about the yard while smoking. Then they moved to a different area of the yard and continued to talk and smoke. I poke my head out at around 3:00 because I cannot understand why they are still standing around doing nothing and ask them how it’s going. They tell me that they can’t begin removing the rajoles on the terrace because they would have to use a regular hammer and pry bar. To remove the unwanted tiles they prefer to use a chipping hammer that does it “en un plis,” which is the English equivalent of saying, "in a blink of an eye." They explain that removing the tiles manually will take a lot longer and they might as well wait until tomorrow when they have their super hammer, so for the moment, they will stand around. Stand around? Are they being facetious?!
|Yesterday's work. Partial removal of wooden steps.|
No, they were not joking and they were absolutely serious about standing around. I ask them again why can’t they use a regular hammer and they both resolutely answer that the electrical chipping hammer is much better, it will remove the tiles very super fast. Then I ask where is their super hammer, and I can tell they notice the tension in my question. To that they reply that, “Oh, we left it at another site because we were working and today it’s really about getting an idea of the amount of work we have to do. Really, we are not prepared to work today.”
Me: So what are you going to do then until 5:00 p.m.?
Them: Nothing really.
Me: You’re not going to do anything else?
Them: No, because we don’t have the mechanical hammer.
Me: So what do you plan on doing?
Them: Nothing. Just stand around mainly.
Me: I see...you can't remove the tiles, huh?
Them: No, it's too much work to do it manually.
Me: It’s three o'clock. If you are not going to do anything ara then you might as well leave. Today I need to get my car to the repair shop before 5:30 p.m., so if you are not going to work you might as well leave early.
Eusebio: Yes. We can’t work today. If you don’t tell the boss we left early, then we’ll leave so you can take your car to the mechanic.
Something about the mischievousness twinkle in Eusebio’s eye and his sly smile make me not get super American and explain to them that they should be earning their euros by chipping away at the tile in light of the fact that jobs are scarce and they should have a better work ethic, a work schedule is a work schedule, and they should have had all of their tools with them. I keep all my drivel inside and turn my attention on this fortuitous moment of getting ahead with a boring automobile repair chore.
In the evening when I protest to my spouse about the treballadors preferring to mill around for two hours because they don’t have an alternate tool to do the same work that a regular hammer and pry bar would do, he answers “You already know honey... Spain is different.”
|I was very tempted to ask them why they didn't have the chipping hammer.|
p.s. the next morning Eusebio and Marco showed up at 8:00 a.m. and began chipping away at the existing tile with a hammer and pry bar!