Not Business as Usual

Now that we can all leave the house to patronize local small businesses, the view is rapidly changing in the neighborhood. The toy store on the corner is vacating the building today. And there are signs on other businesses that they are permanently closed. This virus killed people and the economy. Where it will end, we don’t have a feel for it yet. We had to venture out today for two reasons.

First – A package at Correos (the postal service) required that import duty be paid in cash before we could take possession. The mail carrier doesn’t have a money belt for these transactions so a visit to the post office is required. Second – I remembered today that I had forgotten I dropped off a lovely rug at the local Tintoreria who does all our dry cleaning. I was supposed to be able to pick it up after 22 March – but we all know what happened the week before. And if businesses are closing down I want to ensure I get my rug back.

Jeff had to come with me to the tintoreria because the rug is huge and I can’t carry it. I have looked everywhere for the slip but couldn’t find it. They know us so I figured I would turn up and we would sort it out. No – that did not happen. And I discovered something I have been sort of oblivious to after being ill. My Spanish has disappeared.

You always read about those amazing stories of people who suffer from some sort of illness, only to awake from a coma speaking German or Nepalese fluently. Never really knowing how they acquired this skill. All this, while their native language completely escapes them. If I had been given a choice – Spanish or Ingles – I would have chosen Spanish all the way. It’s second only to China on the number of people on the planet who speak it as their first language. But that did not happen. And nearly all medical staff have been speaking English to me. I hadn’t really noticed.

The place I used to go to in my brain for my Spanish language skills – yes, they were pretty pitiful skills – has now packed up and taken off for parts unknown. Even simple stuff escapes me. My comprehension is sad too. I know Jeff and I were locked up together for a long time. And we spoke Ingles to each other. But I feel like I am going to have to start over completely. Ugh. And I needed my Spanish today.

At the tintoreria, they didn’t have a record of my giant rug. We went round and round and I gave them every form of ID. Nope. They assured me I never dropped off a rug. I know I forgot a couple of weeks in there but I do remember the day I dropped off that rug. So I went home and tore our apartment to the ground. Every bag, every drawer. Jeff just stood back. And finally – I found the receipt. I held it up like the Golden Ticket in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

‘You’re not going back there today are you?’ He asked.

I waved the receipt. ‘Oh yes. That’s exactly what I’m going to do.’

I marched back alone. Jeff didn’t want to go with me. He didn’t think I’d get the rug today anyway and also, he sees that guy at our local and wanted to give it a day to settle down. He saw the fire in my eyes. But its Friday. They aren’t open on weekends and my motto is always ‘No time like the present.’

So I went back and showed the guy the receipt. He put on his glasses and read it. Then he re-read it. Studying it longer than I’m sure he has ever studied a small slip of paper in his life. He pecked the keys on his key board. And pecked some more. Then he told me my name was wrong, my ‘client number’ was incorrect. But good news! The phone number was the right one.

I received this information without reacting. These revelations meant nothing to me. His wife had input all the data off my NIE card. I have no control as to what people do with all those names we were stupid enough to mash together when we got married – to form a name that should never naturally existed in the first place. In my next life I will be Pedro Gonzalez. That’s it. First name and last name. Girl or Boy? I don’t really care. It’s a nice name that almost anyone can spell.

He called his wife over. She put on her glasses and studied the paper and all the words on the screen that I couldn’t see. Then they went back behind all the hanging clothes for completed dry cleaning and had a heated discussion about a bunch of stuff. I’m pretty sure they covered ground that went well beyond just my rug. My Spanish is terrible now, but some part of me translated something like ‘My mother warned me not to marry you!’ But I was like a new born baby watching their parents fight. You have no real idea what they’re saying but you know it isn’t good.

He returned and smiled and asked me my name again. I didn’t take this as a good sign since it was on the receipt (albeit backwards) and also on the paper sitting on the counter where he had asked me to write it the first time I was there with Jeff. More pecking. Then he held up the receipt and told me I had dropped it off on the 3rd of March and since they had been closed since March 14th it would take another week. His math didn’t interest me. My rug wasn’t there. That’s all I really wanted to know – and that it wasn’t lost.

Then a random man walked in and the proprietor excused himself ‘Perdona’ – held up a finger to me and said some rapid fire things to the guy who walked in with a briefcase. The man considered his words silently, nodding, then went behind the door where a bunch of rolled rugs were stacked and came back with one.

‘This is your rug.’ He announced.

Who was this magician or fortune teller? I have no idea. I looked over at the wife and she was smiling at me. Her husband just said. ‘Bien, Kelli?’

I had a rug. It was wrapped up in brown paper and the size seemed right. But it was heavy so I couldn’t get it home alone. I had to get El Jefe down to the shop to help me with a hand truck. He was more than a little surprised that I conjured my rug out of thin air after being told I’d never dropped it off in the first place. But he couldn’t have been more surprised than me. We took it home and wrestled it into the apartment before he asked me. ‘This is the right rug, right? I mean, you checked, right?’

I had not. The truth is, I was too taken aback by the magic man who had produced it out of nothing. If he’d pulled a pigeon from his sleeve I would have just clapped and put a euro in his hat. But I didn’t want to admit I had taken the strangers word for it. Jeff got the scissors and cut the paper back. It was my rug.

‘See. I told you it was there the whole time. You have no faith in people.’ I scolded him as we took it into the guest room – silently thanking the universe because if it was the wrong rug I would have never heard the end of it. ‘My mother warned me not to marry you’ was a little too fresh on my mind.

But the lesson here is that I got lucky, as I usually do. And – I need to start some beginner Spanish lessons again ASAP. Before my brain permanently uses that real estate for something else.

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