By Roxana Urrutia
SPAIN: Today I was in the hospital (asthma) and the waiting room was hilarious.
You know, in the States, the waiting room is quiet and there is usually a TV on and every now and then a person gets a coffee and then the loudspeaker says, “Mr. Smith, please go to room #4, Mr. Smith room #4,” and while the announcement is on, everyone stops, what little noise they contribute, for a complete respectful silence for the loudspeaker.
OK, here in Spain the waiting room is cramped full of people. For each ill person, there are at least 8 family members all talking at once and complaining about having to wait. The people bring in beers and soft drinks and bocadillos de tortilla (omelette sandwiches) from the bareto (family-owned bar) across the street, and there is no TV but plenty of talking about the daily soap opera.
When the intercom comes on, no one shuts up and the person making the announcement has to shout through the microphone something like: “MANUEL ELIAS DE LA PAZ FUERTE. MOLINA PASE A LA SÃLA NUMERO 4,” or “MARIA DE LAS ARENAS CRUZ SANTA DE LA GUADALUPE RAMOS. PASE A LA SÃLA NUMERO 4.”
The entire name, not one letter less. It is so comical because in more common names like Maria Sanchez or Antonio Fernandez there might be three or four with the same name and the entire batch of last names clears any confusion. And then people exchange information about why they are there.
Here is an example of how the conversations get started and how they perpetuate:
Person #1 :”Anoche me caÃ y me resbalÃ© por tres escalones y me partÃ el dedo meÃ±ique del pie …y a usted Â¿quÃ© le pasÃ³? (Last night I fell down three steps and broke my pinkie toe …what happened to you?)
Person #2:”A mÃ me dolÃa el pecho y he pensado que quizÃ¡s haya tenido un paro cardiaco porque tengo el colesterol muy alto y no puedo comer ni quesos ni huevos.” ( I had chest pains and I though that I may have had a cardiac arrest because I have high cholesterol and I can’t eat cheese nor eggs.)
#1 …“Â¡QuÃ© lÃ¡stima! ….con lo ricos que estÃ¡n.” (What a pity! They are so delicious)
Then a third one joins the conversation;
#3 “Pues a mÃ me ha dicho mi mÃ©dico que no fume tanto, pero yo creo que son las aceitunas que me hacen daÃ±o …porque el abuelo de un colega mio en el pueblo fumaba mucho y se muriÃ³ en un accidente de coche a la temprana edad de 98″ (My doctor told me not to smoke so much, but I believe it is the olives that don’t suit me right ..because I have a colleague whose grandfather smoked a lot and he died in a car accident at the early age of 98.)
#1 “Â¡Pobrecillo!” (Poor thing!)
#2 “Â¿CÃ³mo se llamaba?” (What was his name?)
#3 “Â¿Yo o el abuelo de mi colega?” (My name or my colleague’s grandfather?)
#1 “El abuelo.” (The grandfather.)
#3 “Don Javier de las Costas FiguerÃn. Â¿PorquÃ© lo pregunta?” (His name was Javier de las Costas FiguerÃn, why do you ask?)
#2 “No, por nada. Es que yo conocÃa a uno en Villa Tornijas que se muriÃ³ los 98 tambiÃ©n.” (No particular reason. I knew a fella from Villa Tornijas who also died at 98.)
#1 “FiguerÃn es nombre Vasco Â¿Verdad?” (FiguerÃn is a Basque name, true?)
(Loudspeaker) “ERNESTO JAVIER DE LA PEÃ‘A RUÃZ, PASE A LA SÃLA #4. (Ernesto Javier de la PeÃ±a Ruiz go to room #4)
#5 “Creo que es CatalÃ¡n.” (I think it is Catalonian)
#2 “ Â¡Â¡No mujer!! Â¡CÃ³mo va a ser CatalÃ¡n! …FiguerÃn Â¡siempre ha sido Vasco! (No! How could it be Catalonian! …FiguerÃn has always been a Basque name)
#3 “Pues Don Javier era Andaluz.” (Oh yeah, well Mr. Javier was from Andalusia.)
#2 “Â¿Y quÃ© me dice usted? Â¿QuÃ© por ser Andaluz ya tiene que ser Moro el nombre?” (What are you trying to tell me? That just because he was from Andalusia his name had to be Moorish?)
#6 ” Â¡Cuidao! Â¡Cuidao! Que la gente Andalusa sÃ³mo Â¡lo mejorsito de EspaÃ±a!” (Watch what you say! Watch what you say! We, the people of Andalusia, are the best Spain has to offer!)
#7 “OlÃ©!” (Bravo!)
(Loudspeaker) “LUZ EUGENÃA BORTERO MALGREÃ‘O, PASE A LA NÃšMERO 8.” (Luz Eugenia MalgreÃ±o go to room #8.)
#1 “Pues fumar no puede ser muy bueno cuando tantos mÃ©dicos dicen que es malo.” (Smoking can’t be good when so many doctors say it’s bad.)
#4 ” Â¿Sabe alguiÃ©n si me han llamado por el altavoz? (Does anyone know who they just called on the loudspeaker?)
#7 “Acaban de llamar a Luz EugenÃa Bortero MalgreÃ±o a la sÃ¡la nÃºmero 3.” (They just called Luz Eugenia Bortero MalgreÃ±o to pass on to room #3)
#1 “MalgreÃ±o es Gallego.” (MalgreÃ±o is a Galician name.)
#6 “Hay que vÃ© lo mucho que tarda uno aca esperando …Â¡osÃº! mÃ©no mal que no me estoy muriendo, sino ya estarÃa yo muerta …y lÃ©jos de mi Andalusia querÃa.” (Incredible how long we have to wait …good that I’m not dying, because I’d already be dead …and so far from my beloved AndalucÃa!)
(Loudspeaker) “ESTÃ‰R BEGOÃ‘A PERÃ‰Z SALTONINIFINI PASE A LA SÃLA #7.” (Esther BegoÃ±a Perez Saltoninifini go to room #7.)
#3 “Huy, ese es por lo menos de Italia.” (Wow, that one is at least Italian.)
#5 “Siciliano.” (Sicilian.)
#3 “Y usted Â¿CÃ³mo lo sabe? (How do you know?)
#5 “….porque tengo un primo segundo que estÃ¡ casado con una chica que era vecina de uno que vivio en Palermo un tiempo …. y lo sÃ©.” (…because I have a second cousin that’s married to a girl that used to be the neighbor of a guy who once lived in Palermo …and I know.)
#3 ” Â¿Y el apellido Tsipopolous?” (What about the name Tsipopolous?)
#5 “TambiÃ©n Siciliano.” (It’s also Sicilian.)
#2 Â¿Y quÃ© le pasa a usted …porquÃ© ha venido a urgencias usted hoy? (And what happened to you? …why are you in the emergency room today?)
#6 “Naa.” (Nothing.)
#1,2,3,4,y 5 “Â¡Nada!” (Nothing!)
#6 “Ej-que mi marÃo se ha clavao un palillo en la lengua tratando de pelar un boquerÃ³n con lo diente.” (My husband accidentally stabbed his tongue with a toothpick while he was trying to peel an anchovy with his teeth.)
#3 “Pero si el boquerÃ³n no se pela …se come asÃ enterito.” (No one peels anchovies …you have to eat them whole.)
#1 “Claro!” (Of course!)
(Loudspeaker) “HERMENEGILDO MIGUÃ‰L SORIA HUARTAPENAS PASE A LA SÃLA #1.” (Hermenegildo Miguel Soria Huartapenas go to room #1.)
#6 “No ej-que mi marÃo siempre ha sio muy espesial.” (You see, my husband has always been a very special person.)
#8 “A mi gata tampoco le gusta la piel del boquerÃ³n.” (My cat also won’t eat anchovies unless they are peeled.)
#4 “A mi perro tampoco …Â¡que gracia!” (That’s funny …my dog won’t either!)
#6 “Â¡Vaya grasia, y quÃ© vaya grasia! Comparando a mi marÃo con un shucho y un gato …Â¡no te jode!.” (That’s funny! That’s funny! Are you comparing my husband to a mutt and a cat? ….damn you!)
#7 “Â¿QuÃ© le pasa a ese seÃ±or con la camisa rota?” (What’s wrong with the guy with the torn shirt?)
#8 “Ese ya estaba aquÃ cuando lleguÃ© yo.” (He was already here when I got here.)
#7 “Pues tiene muy mala pinta.” (He doesn’t look good.)
#2 “Igual se estÃ¡ muriendo.” (Maybe he’s dying.)
#8 “No diga usted eso …que parece Nostradamus.” (Don’t say that …you sound like Nostradamus.)
#1 “Yo sabÃa que no se iba acabar el mundo ..Â¡ese Paco Rabanne es la leche! asustando a todos los franchutes.” (I knew the world wasn’t going to end. Paco Rabanne is something else! He scared all the Frenchies.)
#6 “Â¡Se lo meresen! A mÃ una ves me quitÃ³ un aparcamiento un FransÃ©s …y eso que yo puse el intermitente.” (They deserve it! A French man once took a parking space from me.)
#9 “Pues nunca se sabe …mire usted, quien me iba a decir a mÃ que se me iba a hinchar una oreja y que estarÃa yo aquÃ con la oreja hinchada en la sala de urgecias.” (Well, you never know …look, who was going to tell me that one of my ears was going to swell up and that I would be here in the emergency room with a big swollen ear)
#4 “Â¿Y quÃ© le ha pasado a la oreja?” (What happened to your ear?)
#10 “Eso mismo me preguntaba yo.” (I was asking myself the same question.)
#6 “Seguro que le ha causao una infeccion ese arete de hojalata que lleva puesto.” (I bet it’s an infection caused by those cheap earring you are wearing.)
#9 “Â¡Hojalata ni leches! …Estos son de plata fina que me los dio mi madre, en paz descanse, cuando yo hize la primera comuniÃ³n.” (Cheap! They aren’t not cheap!! They are of the finest silver and were given to me by my mother when I did my first communion.)
#3 “Son muy bonitos.” (They are very pretty.)
#9 “Gracias.” (Thank you.)
#6 “Ja, plata fina …eso parese mÃ¡s oro del Moro.” (Ha! Finest silver …it looks more like shoddy-wear.)
#1 “Mi nieto acaba de hacer la comuniÃ³n en Mayo …es un cielo de niÃ±o…” (My grandson just did his first communion in May …he is a wonderful child…)
#10 “Mi hija, la mayor, harÃ¡ la comuniÃ³n el aÃ±o que viene.” (My oldest daughter will do her first communion next year.)
#7 “Â¿QuÃ© edad tiene el niÃ±o?” (How old is your grandson?)
#3 “Sigo diciendo que son las aceitunas que me hacen daÃ±o.” (I still think it’s the olives that don’t settle well with me.)
#1 “Ocho, pero estÃ¡ muy alto.” (He’s 8, but he’s really tall.)
#4 “A mÃ me sientan mal las berenjenas.” (It’s eggplants that don’t settle well with me.)
#8 “Que casualidad, a mi hermana tambiÃ©n.” (What a coincidence, my brother has the same problem.)
#2 “El mundo es un paÃ±uelo!” (It’s a small world!)
………….and the exchange of conversations go on forever and ever as the patients go in and out of the emergency room.
It’s difficult not to laugh while these conversations entertain you and while all those abanicos (fans) keep opening and closing.
Before you know it, the five-hour wait goes by without you taking notice.
Learn more about Roxana:
Roxana Urrutia is a first-generation American, born to a Spanish mother and Chilean father.
She grew up between Spain and the United States, knowing what it was like to not speak English and being treated like an immigrant, and then returning to Spain only to be considered “la Americana.”
Since 1999 she has lived in Madrid and makes her living planning events and conferences.
I used to think that I didn’t fit in either country, now I realize they are both my home.