Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Plaza Mayor

This is one facade along Madrid's history-soaked Plaza Mayor.

MADRID Plaza Mayor

Nowadays, the plaza's main function is to act as a trap for unwitting tourists. Restaurants compete to outdo one another in the egregiousness of their prices, the generic lousiness of their food, and - most importantly - the surliness of their waiters. They get away with this because - you've guessed it - location, location, location!

For reasons too complicated to go into here, I could be found yesterday, at around 3:30, eating "lunch" at one of these vile eateries. It certainly fulfilled the three main requirements - shamelessly jacked-up prices, a virtually inedible calamari sandwich, and a waiter who was clearly in training for the regional surliness semi-finals. By far the best part of the meal was my café solo at the end. Hard to mess up an espresso, and the hostility of the waiter (why - because the two occupied tables were stretching him to his limit?) was almost compensated for by these characters,

muy agradecidos por su visita

who declared themselves to be "really grateful for my visit". A sentiment clearly not shared by the waiter.

Still, as I pondered my poor treatment at the hands of this surly yokel, I thought it important to maintain a sense of perspective, given my location. Others had surely endured greater indignities, right on the very spot where I was now sitting:

The music accompanying the auto-da-fé that closes Act II of Don Carlos started to run through my head. Just about then, the smell of something burning in the kitchen of the restaurant reached my table.

I paid my check, counted my blessings, and got the hell out of there.

The plain people of Ireland: You know what they say, don't you?
The management: No, but I'm fairly sure you are going to tell me.
The plain people of Ireland: Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!

Fadeout to the sound of paroxysms of rustic laughter.

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