Sitting in front of the computer screen at work today, with just a slight trace of a hangover from last night’s festivities, I dreamed of a turkish durum with goat cheese. In the US, ‘greasy spoon’ is more like Mexican food takeout or Burger King. But here in Barcelona it’s kebabs and family all the way.
I have been forced to watch my few pennies these past couple of months, which means I’ve been eating at home without indulging too much in restaurants or take away food. But today, with 1,60 EUR in my bank account and just 4,78 EUR of spare change in my wallet, I decided to splurge and give in to my durum needs.
Paying in exact change, with not enough left over for even a drink, I took my warm durum to the plaza to sit on a bench in the breeze beneath the trees to enjoy this special gift I was allowing myself today. A reward of sorts.
There were two Spanish punkis also sitting there enjoying the breezes of the plaza, them and their 2 grungy looking dogs. The large black dog lifted its nose as I unwrapped my seasoned chicken wrap, and instantly came to my side. She stared at my food, snout just about a foot away. I spoke to her softly, in Spanish, saying sorry sweetie but you can’t have any. She didn’t budge. I spoke to her again, now using words like “no” and “go away” and looked over to her owners, the punki couple, hoping they would call back their mutt. Finally the guy comes walking over and I think, great. He’ll come get his dog and let me eat in peace.
Much to my surprise, rather than pulling the dog away he instead approached me, also stood about one foot away from my food, and asked if he could have a bite of my durum. He was hungry, he told me. Now, on occasion and when I actually feel that someone’s situation is less fortunate than mine I sometimes do give my food to people. But this guy did not appear to be struggling in any way, shape or form. He was a young Spanish guy wearing a theatrical cap and striped tights. And I really really really wanted my food today. I kindly, with an uncertain smile, said that I did not feel comfortable allowing him, or his dog, to bite into my food. Sorry. Now please go away. He did. And finally took the dog with him.
His girlfriend had been drinking from the fountain in the plaza, and three bites after her boyfriend left me, she then came over to me and asked for a euro.
And then the shit hit the fan.
Smile-less and now speaking in a fairly loud voice, I put the durum in my lap so as to have my hands free to wave around to make my point more clear. I spoke loud enough for not only her boyfriend and dogs to hear, but I’m pretty sure the attic apartment dwellers in the plaza could also hear me. And this is what I said:
“I have 1,60 EUR in my bank account right now. I used the last 4,78 EUR that I scrounged up in small change at the bottom of my purse in order to buy this durum. I am working part-time, don’t have unemployment benefits from the government, or rich family members that give me allowances so that I can dress like a clown and steal from people in nice plazas who are actually trying to get off their lazy asses and make some hard-earned cash. Don’t you dare ask me for anything else. Now, please, all of you leave me alone and let me finish off this juicy, delicious durum in peace!”
Needless to say, the punkis left me in peace. A couple people walking by stopped and stared for a few brief moments. But I didn’t care. The juice from the sauces was running down my arm, and I had still have a few enjoyable bites left, dammit. I stared at them while I took my last bite. I licked my fingers and smiled and rinsed my hands off in the fountain before walking away from them.
A couple hours later, while walking home from work, I saw two guys trying to rob a girl on my street. She was sitting down on a ledge with a traveler’s backpack and her purse. One guy was trying to distract her with a map and his buddy came around the back and gently pulled away her purse and started to walk away slowly. I shouted at them, the girl jumped up and went after the buddy with the bag. He ended up dropping the bag and the two guys walked off, not without first giving me some major dirty and threatening looks. With her bag in hand, she screamed after them, “Rob the rich you assholes!” Turns out she was not a tourist after all. She lives on this street and was just back from holiday. Having lost her keys, she was locked out and sitting there worrying about what to do.
Dear punkis and thieves of Barcelona: Don’t fuck with me on a bad day. Punk me and I’ll punk you back!