Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mad Dogs and an Englishman

It's been more than 30 days since our last visit to the National Police office where we submitted the paperwork to change the address on our residency cards. We have to do that any time we move. We were told by the very nice [Spanish] officer there that we could come back to pick up our new cards in 30 days. After breakfast this morning we headed over.

There's an information desk. It's manned by an expat (ex-patriot) Englishman, aged 70+. A bit crotchety, we thought last time, but nice enough to us no matter how nasty he was to others. He was occupied and another man who does paperwork (but doesn't usually help visitors) looked up at me. I told him in Spanish what we were there for and he, a bit gruffly (I assume because his job doesn't usually entail dealings with the public), directed me to the line for foreigners to pick up the cards. The line was a small mass of confusion with people coming from multiple directions with no apparent order. It was a warm day and even hotter inside, so San Geraldo went to wait on the shaded front terrace. When the Englishman was free, I leaned over and asked him if I was in the right place to pick up our cards. He looked at the form in my hand and snapped, "Not here!" and then busied himself with paperclips.

I said, "I'm sorry?"

He snarled (even curling his lip at me), "They're only up to 57!" The shuffling of paperclips had become frantic.


I had no idea what 57 was. He pointed to a post-it note on his wall. In pencil was the number 57.

I said, "I'm sorry. I must have misunderstood. We were told to come back in 30 days. Is there a way for us to know what number is ready so we come back on the right day?

"Go ahead and stand in line for all I care. I'm telling you what they told me." OK, then.


I looked down at my form and saw that San Geraldo and I both had number 61, in addition to a string of numbers that followed. I had no idea until then, that we even had "numbers." A very nice guy behind me said, "Oh, I've talked with that one this morning. Turns out I have number 62. I'm just going to wait and see if maybe they told him wrong." He was holding a British passport and went on to say, "I was also told to come back in 30 days, but I just finally read my receipt and it says it would be ready in 45 days." He added with an eye-roll, "He's a real charmer, isn't he?"

I looked again at my own form and discovered the same thing — 45 days. Too bad I hadn't bothered reading it earlier. One demerit for me. I decided to not wait in line; we'd return in another two weeks.

The only thing that truly bothered me was the behavior of the Englishman behind the desk. Why should a rude Englishman be allowed to badly represent Spanish bureaucracy? Surely, Spanish bureaucrats can sully their own reputations if they choose. It made me remember more fondly Things 1, 2, and even Thing 3, our first government bureaucrats in Sevilla. (Click here to see how memories can change.) 


I wished my neighbor luck and walked out to San Geraldo, who was trying to stay cool, calm, and collected. I started to vent. He was clearly hoping my little rant would end quickly. So, instead of commiserating, he gently patted me on the back, which I thought was patronizing and, of course, that just about sent me over the edge. We walked home and stopped at a sidewalk café for something cool to drink. We had what turned out to be tasteless, poorly made "slushies." But they were at least cold. I became nice again (I think), San Geraldo cooled off, and we both relaxed. A woman sat nearby with a little rat of a dog. It yipped and squealed piercingly at every other dog that passed; there were many. We groaned. Then someone else arrived with a very large dog. It had a booming bark that nearly shook us out of our seats every time something of interest caught its eye. The sun was shining. It was noon. Noel Coward was right.


  1. There is nothing more annoying than a PAT ON THE BACK mid-rant!!!

  2. There was probably nothing that San Geraldo could have said or done to 'make matters' better at that moment!! I have SO been there so many times! and has Ron. Good that things got somewhat better for you both.

    1. Jim:
      You're so right. And all is well now. We were BOTH venting and joking this morning about the jerk at the information desk

  3. I am madly in love with Noel Coward now.

    1. Maria:
      He was truly brilliant and this clip is priceless.

  4. That saying
    "Only Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the Noon day sun."
    Brought great memories to me for Mothers Day. You see, my Mom and Grandmother said that all the time.
    Well, get there first in line
    and start waving a big 57 sign.
    Good bye and Good luck. Have a great weekend, The men in Greece are really Grummpy. yvonne

    1. Yvonne:
      Glad to bring back great memories. I love the line and I love the song. As for the men in Greece, I hope they're not ALL grumpy!

  5. I shall pass this story along to the Great Scot who, being Scottish, despises (almost) all things and people English. Says they are all arrogant boors. Then again, we both have a fondness for Tom Hibbleston so go figure!
    The kidling says microwave tea is just her speed, so whenever she's in Spain she'll pop by for a cuppa.
    Patted you on the back? He did NOT, surely.

    1. Jacquelineand....
      Well, Tim Hiddleston should be forgiven, I think, for being English... not that there's anything wrong with it! And in defense of the English, the English people we see every morning at breakfast were appalled when we told them the story. They are definitely not arrogant boors. Besides, my brother-in-law is English born and raised, but his mother was from Scotland. Come to think of it, I don't know how he lives with himself.

      I look forward to the opportunity to serve a cup of home-made tea to kidling. And I promise to sing the entire Jetsons theme song.

  6. I haven't seen that Noel Coward tape. How fun!

  7. It's good to know that attitudes like that are found everywhere and my little corner of the world is not the only place to be treated so poorly.

    1. Stew:
      Oh, I remember some awful experiences at the Dept. of Motor Vehicles in Orange County, California, that make #57 seem like a walk in the park. Yep, they're everywhere.

  8. I'd be boiling inside if I'd been treated like that. (But I wouldn't dared have said anything). I can never understand why everyone doesn't play in their minds the thought "How would I like to to be treated if roles had been reversed?" It's a simple enough notion - and it brought me down to earth with a bump when I first realised that for a lot of people (most people?) the thought doesn't occur to them for even a split-second, they being so obsessed with the idea that the whole world should work only for THEM.

    The Coward song - certainly just one of his very best-known - benefits, in this rather scrambled performance, of having subtitles. For those unfamiliar with the song they enable one to appreciate 'The Master's' rhyming skills at their very best and wittiest Priceless!

    1. Raybeard:
      I get over it quickly but definitely need to let off steam.

      I loved finding these songs performed with subtitles. The lyrics are brilliant and you can miss so much. He truly was a genius.

  9. Troubles, even in paradise.


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