Saturday, January 8, 2011
As SH and I climbed the 152 steps to the top of the Alcazar in Segovia yesterday (those stairs are to normal stairs as football time is to real time), we passed two older women who spoke to us in English, both much relieved to find someone with whom they shared a language. They told us with a bit of indignation that almost no one, no one! spoke English in Segovia can you imagine what is wrong with these people all they speak is Spanish!
I wanted to ask if they speak Spanish or French or Italian for the visitors they get in Germany or whatever glutteral-language country whence they came, but decided to practice being tactful which is hard enough when I'm rested but when I'm on day 3 of jet lag/late nights/noisy hotel is not easy.
I did want to tell them that I wished my own country were just a bit more chauvinistic about its language and proud to say, "Here we speak English. Other languages are fine, but we are not going to spend public money on translating documents and interpreting doctor visits or court appearances for you." Oh well. SH and I are trying to have a politics-free vacation.
I did think of the women just a little bit when SH and were at supper Wednesday night. This was supposed to be our Nice Supper for the trip. We had done the research and found The Restaurant where to eat roasted baby pig, a Segovia specialty. Most of the restaurants in the area had English translations on the menu (hello! no tax money involved!) and also had a prix fixe meal of the piglet.
The restaurant we chose (I'm talking to you, Jose Maria) had a menu only in Spanish, which is OK because we were in Spain, but when I asked the waiter clarifying questions, like, "Does the piglet come with a side dish?" which is a reasonable question for something that costs 21 euros by itself (do the math yourself with the exchange rate, which is not great, although better than it was) and when I ask further clarifying questions like, "OK, so are there side dishes available?" because I don't see anything on the menu but meat appetizers and steak and a couple of salads with Serrano ham, I wanted something better than the almost eye-rolling, deep sighing, toe-tapping, don't mess with me Missy attitude we got from the waiter.
I don't miss the obsequious Hi my name is Bob I'll be your waiter action from the US, but the practice of tipping waiters as opposed to paying them a salary as is done here does keep waiters from being too snotty to customers. If I'm polite and trying to speak your language, even if I am way out of practice, I expect just a little niceness.