"Europe 2004-05" story # 36

Pas de la Casa, Andorra           January 30, 2005

A French movie came on tv the other night. It was the type of movie I really like, except for the aspect that I didn´t understand what the characters were saying. The main characters were two guys in their mid-twenties who were good-hearted but quite pathetic. They had boring social lifes, and they kept hitting on and getting rejected by girls way out of their league. One of them was unemployed.
     The other one´s job was as a supermarket shelve-stocker. He placed the spaghetti boxes on the shelves with impeccable form, I noticed.
     I love pathetic people. Don´t be better, baby!
     My French is improving and has now carried me up the "escalier" (stairs) to FRENCH INFILTRATION STEP 5 - Develop a French sense of humor.
     Cyril, my stocky-bodied roommate and fellow supermarket shelve-stocker, hates his life. Maybe he doesn´t hate his life, but he uses the phrase, "La vie du chien," (The life of the dog) a lot. We work fifty hours a week, which is entiringly too much. Sometimes I "Rrruufff, rrruufff!" at Cyril to remind him of whose life we now have. All we do is go look for milk, go look for soft drinks, go look for vegetables ... Once, a high-ranking cashier called for Cyril. As my roommate ran to the front of the store, I yelled, "Va chercher! Va chercher!" ("Go look for!" - but, if said to a dog it means, "Go fetch! Go fetch!")
     A ton of snow has hit the world lately. It´s kept me from taking hitchhiking trips to France on my days off.
     A lot of the snow in touristy Pas de la Casa, Andorra, falls on the roofs of six-story hotels and apartment buildings. Sometimes, this snow bunches up and hangs over the roof´s edge darkly like an avalanche waiting to kill someone. A huge flow of snow hung out about three feet from the roof high above the supermarket entrance. Each time I had to walk to the dumpster, I feared that snow was going to fall and erase me. A mass of it eventually thundered the ground in the nighttime, and the shrapneling snow was enough to break through my work´s front glass door. This didn´t get Cyril and me days off.
     Although a blizzard of snowflakes filled mountain air like an aquarium, I snowboarded on Friday´s lunch break. The floating white battered my eyes as I hiked up the hill. Snowboarding down, I couldn´t even see the fresh cream beneath me which guided my gliding board along like magic. By the lunch break´s end, a tiny slushball of falling snow had gathered on my eye-lash.
     Two girls have become my favorite friends for when I´m not working or snowboarding. Martina and Klara are two short but commanding bar-women at a Pas de la Casa hotel. They´re not two of the many English, Spanish, and French workers in Pas de la Casa; they´re two of us outliers.
     Black-haired Martina comes from Slovakia. She has dark eyes, Sahara skin, and the stern face of an Eastern European. She says of herself that she doesn´t like talking. When she speaks, her English accent is strong and direct. When she laughs, she leans forward and closes one eye half-way.
     Klara comes from the Czech Republic. She has the straight blond hair, blue eyes, and light freckles of a Czech ice-pond princess. A wide kid´s smile is usually taking up most of her round face. She uses an abundance of energy to smile at everyone, to laugh with a frill hiccup, and to tell simple stories about trips to the post office which become great due to her wide-eyed excitement. She gets excited to snowboard, to serve people drinks, for just about everything. Her stongest addiction is to a video game at the end of her bar in which she stares at two similar pictures (sometimes erotic photos of men) until she finds the hidden differences. She laughs madly, "Aaah-haa-haa!!!" as she plays to stay on her toes.
     Every single solitary time they receive a tip at their bar, they ring a ridiculously loud bell and yell, "Wooo-oo-oooh!!!" in everyone´s ear. They go out to dance late at night, and they move their bodies fluidly to the music. They make fun of the English girls, who they say bob around in the nightclubs unattractively.
     They show they´re my friends by doing two main things when around me: 1. Taking care of me, and 2. Laughing at me. They laugh at my old, beaten, yellow-and-green coat; at hole-consumed socks; at sandals worn in the winter-time (better than snow-soaked sneakers, though); and at my pre-payday financial possessions which at any give time might number, let´s say, three Euro´s and two cents.
     They loan me money, they fix me drinks, they do my laundry in their washing machine, they make us pumpkin soup. They see that I have drinks when we go together.
     Black-haired Martina and I went out last week. A nice English tourist joined us but made for an unlikely companion. He was quite a bit older, he had a real job, and he was a bit clueless when it came to world cultures.
     He said he´d been on vacation to Cuba. Excited, I asked him if the people often danced in the streets there. He nodded coolly, "Oh yeah - salsa," and demonstrated his version of salsa dancing, which resembled exactly the "Churning the Butter" move that rhythm-less white people do in the United States.
     The English guy later inquired which bar or hotel did I work in. Immediately, Martina began telling him what I do while simultaneously bursting into laughter at the thought of my job. Struggling to find the words in English, she explained, "He ... puts ... things ... onto the ..... things ... in a supermarket."
     (Historical note interjection: Long ago, my college roommate suggested the title, "The Poor Man´s Guide to the Pathetic Traveler," for my travel stories. Why, I should´ve listened to him.)
     Next, the English guy asked what I did on the mountains. Confusing French terms with English ones, I said, "I do a little surfboarding."
     "What the fuck is that!?" The English guy threw up his hand, totally disgusted.
     Three hours later, we three were in a nightclub. Our English friend disappeared. Martina ran up to me: "Where´s ... the guy?" She leaned forward and half-closed one eye, and we laughed. After three hours, we only knew him as "The guy."
     "The guy" was a good companion, but when Klara comes out with us it´s even funnier. Smily Klara makes me laugh every time I look at her.

from Pas de la Casa,
later ...
the guy who puts things onto the things ... in a supermarket
The Poor Man
Modern O. -

... keep salsa-ing, "guy!"

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