Missionary life lesson 101: When in line for anything, carefully observe what is happening in front of you and do as they do! This was very helpful for me this last week when I took the "Silver Hornet," our 25 year old Ford Fiesta, into the Spanish Government's version of the Smog Testing facility. In this instance, I watched very carefully what the guys in front of me did, as they guided their cars, mostly BMWs and Peugeots through the supervised testing routine. When it was my turn, things went pretty well, even though my car failed due to defective head lights of all things!
I learned this lesson the way I learn all my lessons: The Hard Way! Case in point: It was my first grocery shopping experience here in Spain. I was waiting, last in a long line, and became fascinated by the throngs of people that were surrounding me. I thought that I was being investigative, noting what they wore, how they talked to each other, etc. Well, it came my turn to get to the front of the line. I stood there and allowed the lady to run my items through. I continued my people watching while I waited for her to finish. I had the money in my hand, and did notice that she was not bagging the groceries, nor was there a bagger in sight. I figured that she would be doing that after she was finished. I stood there and smiled, while she shot me a few dirty looks, as though she were unhappy about something. I thought, "Hey, so I like Nestle Quick! Give me a break!" While this silent interchange is going on, the line behind me has gotten rather lengthy. She announces my total, which I dutifully pay, then she hands me a bag and it dawns upon me: They bag their own groceries! So, I don't think I have to tell you how that went! Let's just say I had a load of Spanish eyes trained upon me, the lame American!
After that regrettable episode, I began to train my mind for the next encounter. I remembered how our Stater Bros. baggers would bag our groceries, how they could do it without looking and always place appropriate items in the appropriate bags. It was like an art. Their eyes focused on the runway and their hands, discerning which item would be appropriate for the current bag. For example, you would never put eggs in a bag with toilet paper. Eggs go in the kitchen and toilet paper does not, a helpful side note to you single guys! There was such a method to it that I began to get intimidated. I even though about checking into a website for further details, but stopped short and realized I was being a bit too obsessive.
Suffice it to say, I was ready for the next encounter. My mind focused, ready for the task and my body positioned at the front of the check out stand. It was like any scene from any western you have ever seen. You know, whistling wind, extreme close-ups on the cowboys faces and of course a view of the guns; well just transfer that vision to any store nearest you, except I had a plastic bag in my hand and she does not have a handle-bar mustache! Anyway, I held my bag open, ready to receive. She smiled as if she knew that she was about to break yet another customer.
At first, I held my ground, having manufactured what she would be sending down the pike in neat little mini-piles. She followed the program for a bit, but noted that I had bagged all the groceries correctly. I am almost sure she could see the smug smile that I was growing with each passing moment. But then, she did not take the next nice little mini-pile. In fact, she started randomly throwing things down the pike! I started sweating, putting things in any open bag, regardless of what it was coupled with. At this point, I even solicited my oldest daughter to come and help daddy, but to no avail: The Teller still ended up helping me bag the groceries in the end, the insult to injury as it were!
I walked out like a dejected athlete, just wishing I had a towel over my head, while she started in on the next victim! Is it in my mind? I don't think so! The competition is fierce, and it leads me to Missionary Life Lesson 101 part 2: NEVER GIVE UP!
Blessings to the friends of Spain,