74 – Plugged In

She always waved and greeted me if I’d parked up there, opposite her house.  Always dressed in black, usually sitting on a high-backed chair just inside her door, staring out for long hours, seemingly hoping that someone would stop for a chat.  Shyness that I might not understand her properly made me reticent.

Then one day I caught up with her, making her way slowly down the hill, her arm supported by the community nurse who was encouraging her to walk just a little further than she wanted.  She took the opportunity to stop the painful exercise, and chat to me instead.  “Come in for a coffee soon” she said.  “Yes yes, of course, thank you” I replied, unsure if her offer and my reply were serious.

A week later and she waved again from her door – “When are you coming for coffee?”, her voice not strong.  That twist of guilt – it gets you in the stomach.  Yes why not? – it seemed she could do with the company.  A few days later I knocked on her door.

This was months ago, back in the cold of January, and we buried our knees below the heavy tablecloth covering the brasero, the little heater under the table.  A fascinating history emerged, of over 40 years work in the Ayuntamiento, through so many changes, and pride in her son who works there now.  She told me of some triumphs and some tragedies.  An interesting lady, a companionable afternoon.

I didn’t really know the Ayuntamiento people then.  I’d had some dealings with most of them, paying bills, getting forms completed, the usual day-to-day chores.  One had been particularly helpful just before Christmas when I needed an up-to-date empadronamiento certificate.  Later, just before New Year I’d gone in to thank her but their section was closed for the holidays.  A man asked if he could help me – I explained I just wanted to thank a member of staff for working late the day before Christmas Eve to make sure I had the paperwork in time to pick up my new car.  He promised he’d pass it on.

Incidents, small occurrences in the daily life in the village.  Nothing of import.  Until one day recently trundling through the paperwork needed for me to become resident in Spain – it struck me that my registration at the ayuntamiento was recorded as number one in my street, whereas my other official documents recorded me as being at number twenty-one.  The ayuntamiento had changed the number of my house – almost certainly correctly, but I was left with an anomaly in my paperwork, and my gestor advised that the Policía Nacional would throw back my application to sign on the Registro de Ciudadano de la Unión Europa (the process by which one becomes officially and legally resident in Spain).   It was explained to me that I needed a certificate from the ayuntamiento confirming that the house now known as number 1 is the same house that was previously known as number 21.  I submitted a request for this certificate.

74-ayuntamientoTwo weeks later and I returned to be told that the papers had been mislaid.  A week more and on my return there was a great deal of head-shaking.  It reminded me of the infamous video of Spanish funcionarios – well worth a watch (it’s a great spoof of those Wild West shoot-outs …. and hang on for the very final image!).  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGhomDQenLg  (Please note this video is frequently removed, but pops up again at a different address.  If this link doesn’t work just search YouTube for “Leyenda de Funcionarios” and you should find it).

After a few more visits it became clear that, for some reason, my need for this certificate was not deemed to be a priority – which to an extent is understandable, yet to me its absence was a major obstacle to my registration as a full resident.

And then things fell into place.

74-plugI sat in the ayuntamiento foyer for ten minutes.  The door to the office of the Tesorero opened (for readers outside Spain, think local authority Chief Executive, rather than Treasurer).  Paco came out – the man who had been delighted at Christmas when I’d complimented his staff.  Paco – who had been pleased that I had visited his mother and had enquired after her well-being.  Paco – who turned out to be the Chief Executive of our town hall.  He ushered me into his office and clapped me on the back.  All would be well.


© Tamara Essex 2013


74-InTheGarlicThere is a great word in Spanish – enchufe.   I first read about it in the wonderful book “In the Garlic” by Theresa O’Shea and Valerie Collins – everybody’s guide to unraveling the complexities of Spain  http://inthegarlic.com/in-the-garlic-book/    Look up enchufe in the dictionary and you are told it is a plug of the electric variety.  But here’s the excerpt from “In the Garlic” (which in Spanish means “In the Know”) ….:

“Plug, to plug in, and one of the keys to grasping the mechanics of Spanish life.  An enchufe is not only a lump of pronged plastic needed to start up your computer /toaster/television, it also comes in the shape of a life-size, strategically situated human being.  This flesh-and-blood enchufe may work high up in the place where you have applied for a job.  He or she may know a specialist you need to see.  Or be on the board of governors of a select school.  If your enchufe is high up enough, you may be able to jump the queue where it matters.  Grossly unfair, of course, but no-one ever looks a gift plug in the prongs.”


5 thoughts on “74 – Plugged In

  1. Your small acts of kindness and thoughtfulness were well rewarded. You have an enchufe and you are enchufada. In many ways it is a delightful aspect of Spanish life but I think this is where lies the frustration for many expats. In small to medium size towns, most Spanish people have some (if only distant) family connection with the Town Hall. They have the patience to wait until the right word gets to the right ear – but in the worst cases, it’s called corruption. I love Spain. I don’t want to see too much change to it’s intrinsic nature – but there is a big challenge ahead – it’s called “transparencia”. P.S. I love your blogs.

  2. They’re paid, it’s their job, requiring a “friendly” face to achieve anything is just plain nepotism. Its not quaint, or homely or about cultural differences, its discrimination and corruption and often extortion, Its the worst aspect of Spain and its sickening.

  3. Pingback: 75 – Picking Up a Certificate ….. | A Foot in Two Campos

  4. Pingback: 104 – All the Language Points in One Place | A Foot in Two Campos

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