by Jamie Loftus
**The following is a creative piece told from the POV of a waiter in Barcelona.
So I’ve been put on the three to eleven shift on a Tuesday… again, although you’d think after a year I’d have some pull in this place. If you can call it that, I guess. You wouldn’t think that a shack full of sangria and a plastic tarp could fool so many dumbass tourists into believing this was a good idea, but what do I know? I’m the one working the three to eleven.
After what feels like a goddamn eternity, that British lady with five kids finally hauled pretentious ass out to the Mediterranean beach to giggle at how on Earth that waiter knew their language, a barrage of American kids make their way into our humble tarp. Excellent. There’s nothing I love more than serving a group of college kids with money to burn and that weird catharsis they get from drinking before they’re two decades old. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t see it.
Here it is again, the expression a customer makes when they’re not sure whether you two speak the same language. It begins in their moving their head a bit closer to you, as if proximity has an effect on the fact that the only speak English, then a narrowing of the eyes and a quick intake of breath before saying… “Um, hi?” Phrased as a question rather than a greeting, because an holawould have been too much to even attempt even if there was an off-chance that they spoke a shred of Spanish that hadn’t been taught on Sesame Steet. I try my best to hide my annoyance and inhale deeply, greeting them in fluent English. They are almost too impressed, like I’m about to crash some cymbals together and totter away or something.
I know what they’re ordering before they say a word– sangria, of course. What slimy little college kid doesn’t wet themselves over the idea of sangria in Spain before boarding the plane? That’s how I felt two years ago when I moved here, but now it’s just the quickest way to get me drunk. Potent stuff, that sangria, and they’re ordering four pitchers of it. And to eat? The cheapest thing on the menu, a little bit of tapas that won’t absorb a fraction of the poison they’re about to take down. I feel vaguely ill and extremely annoyed.
Fast forward a half hour and six attempts later to get that stupid Metallica song out of my head. I don’t even like Metallica. I’ve been trying to ignore the overprivileged Yankee folk for a while now, but the sangria has amplified them to the exponent of a million and it’s hard to avoid eavesdropping over the grating sound of James Hetfield’s voice. Unsurprisingly, they’ve spent their entire week thus far chugging Desperadoes at Obama British Africa, the bar downtown that has possibly the least sensical concept I’ve ever heard. I can never decide whether they go for nationalism, price, or laziness, although I guess it’s thoroughly American to do any of the three. Finally, sweet catharsis fall in the sound of jingling euros hitting the table– “I am not paying another round for you guys, goddamn vultures”– and I head over to flash each and every bone in my mouth in the hopes that their inability to count will end up swinging in my favor. It does, and the ten kids stumble off our humble platform and onto the beach as I gather the coins like a beggar. The things I do to stay breathing, I swear to God.
The last few stragglers of the night come trickling in for a cosmo here, a screwdriver there, and eleven approaches with the promise of texting my friends while they are still coherent enough to type. At this point, I’d settle for a night of dubbed Family Guy so long as I don’t need to deal with those goddamn–
Well, that was nice while it lasted.
The Americans, as it turned out, have not finished their Tuesday night blood poisoning binge, and have begun a strange tribal dance to the tune of “My Favorite Things”, or a bit part of two hours in my childhood I will never get back. A few are chugging cheap wine– the 2006 red you get at a goddamn Spar, for God’s sake– while another has defected to the side, drawing a line in the sand with a long stick and playing with a stray dog, using a wine bottle to fetch. Ten fifty-four.
I try to remember what I felt like when I first got to Barcelona, although the year and a half it’s been now feels like an eternity. Granted, I’d never ended up doing anything that would make the Animal Patrol fill their pants, but I’d had these moments in the first month of living in this gorgeous town. As another jackass American kid faceplants as they run to the ocean so foreign to them in the sand, I see myself right out of college still thinking sangria was the nectar of the Gods, that Park Guell was the prettiest place I’d ever been. You know what? They gave me a five euro tip, I’m gonna let this one slide. And it’s eleven o’clock!
I begin to extinguish the lights on the tarp as the last customers of the night scuttle out as footsteps slowly approach me. It’s one of the Americans with a dreary smile on her face, holding onto the floor as if it’s going to go somewhere without her. “Thanks for all that, sir,” she says in a sentence that was far more slurred consonants than it was Sesame Street English. “Gracias.” I smile lightly and give myself props for being such a astoundingly great person, and turn around just in time to hear it. She promptly wretches all over the floor.