I’m watching you edge yourself closer to the front of the line. Rather than taking the traditional back door, you opted for the side way (the entrance clearly marked “douchebags only”) under the guise of simply admiring the pastry selection under the glass at the front counter, shifting back and forth in mock indecision, when your real intentions are clear. You probably don’t know I’m on to you because your charade is so foolproof.
The concept of a line, in which one’s time waiting is supposed to be inversely proportional to one’s time left to wait, is a little different in Barcelona. There is a time-honored tradition in America of personal space and the right to a proper queue. It is a metaphorical handshake to “I don’t cut you, you don’t cut me, everyone gets their turn and no one has a problem.” There is no such agreement in Spain.
I have learned that if I do not cement myself centimeters from an approaching metro train, someone will promptly station themselves in front of me as if I had been holding up their travel plans. Even though I would call the distance between my face and an oncoming train a “cautionary buffer,” many Spaniards perceive this as a welcome place to park themselves.
I have learned to cling uncomfortably close to complete strangers in festival crowds and beer lines. To show any sign of hesitancy in this situation would invite a stream of people looking for the weakest link to push out of the way as they traverse the sea of bodies. It’s not that I haven’t participated in this. Obviously, if you have a choice between pushing a resolute, eyes-forward kind of guy or a squirrelly, shifty type, the one doing the uncertainty jig is the one getting pushed.
I have learned that no one will wait for you to exit a metro or bus before trying to pack themselves on. At first, I accommodated this practice by side-stepping politely and navigating my way out elsewhere. Now, I just like to think of exiting public transportation like a rugby scrum: full body contact just to let them know that they are annoying me.
But that’s all reasonably fair game because there’s no specific order. It’s not like I can blame a different culture for having a different way of navigating a crowded situation. Yes, it would be nice if everyone could wait their turn to board fairly and comfortably, and yes, it seems reasonable to me that you should wait for outbound passengers in an already crowded public transportation system, but maybe that is just my American sensibility talking.
However, you sir, are a different story altogether. I can count the number of people in front of me. You are trying to shove an extra number in there, and that is the reason I’m picking you out.
It’s not like I don’t know how to tell you in your own language that you’re being a jerk. All I’d have to do is yell, “¡Oye, señor! Estoy siguiente, espérate un momento!” What I’d really like to say is, “Eyes up from the pastries, douchebag. I see the game you’re playing. Get to the back of the line,” but I’m not sure how well all that would translate.
However, just as every practiced pickpocket possesses a patented look of bewilderment and innocence should someone call them out on their crime, so too would you, pastry man, respond that you are simply perusing the pastry selection and had no intention of accidentally being in front of the line. That was just a happy coincidence.
So rather than waste my breath exposing your scheme, I’m taking my time to enjoy it. After all, I’m in line to order my third sangria of the night. It really is a theatrical performance, watching you subtly inch your way toward the front with your eyes on the glass. I wouldn’t get half this performance in a good ol’ American line cut.