Thursday, December 27, 2012

Twenty-Nine Sheets To Go, Please

Pulp non-fiction.

So here I am, world traveler.

I've never been anywhere in my life, and I recently changed continents.

"So how's that going, then?"

Well, it's different.

I don't speak the language. "Sure," you say, "why would you? You're an ignorant dope." But I'm trying.

I had two years of Latin, and that should count for something. And two and a half years of German. Likewise, in the counting department. But it's not enough. So I'm studying Spanish. Which is what they speak here. In case you hadn't heard.

"Hear what? Oh, nevermind. Call me when you get smart. Bye."

OK. Alone again, with my thoughts.

And when you end up like this, all alone, with some thoughts, what do you think?

Well, you think a lot, that's true, but other than that you think paper and a pen. To write stuff down. And it's also good for studying a language and stuff.

Indispensable, nearly, so since I think a lot and am here kind of alone, and can't communicate, and have a Spanish class coming up soon, I thought I'd darn well better get some paper. (I have a pen already, so OK there.)

Off to the Mall del Rio, and guess what? They have a store there.

Which seems fitting, and. In that store, they have paper and pens, and pencils, and, oh, all kinds of stuff.

So I went there for paper.

And found some.

The best deal is a plastic-wrapped packed of about 25 sheets of plain white paper. The kind that used to be called "typing paper". Remember that?

That was the best I could do. Don't ask me what to do if you need a ream of paper. You may have to fly to...well, somewhere. A place where they make paper or something, but I had some in my hand, only 25 sheets maybe, but paper, and the price was 58 cents.

So maybe it was 29 sheets at two cents a sheet, but who's counting? I had it! In my hand! And stuff.

So the next step is pretty familiar: paying for it.

So I go and try to do that. Thinking I know how. And they use U.S. currency here, so I have that part figured out, and as far as buying in general, I'm not a professional or anything but I've been getting by for a long, long time.

First I take the paper, clearly marked, to the nearest checkout line that looks like a good bet.

This one had one person ahead of me, which in my book is a good bet. That's how I define it.

"Get in line, Dave," I tell myself, in English (not being any good in Spanish yet, and English seems to make a lot of sense in situations like this anyway). So I did that, I got in line, and it was good.

And then the person ahead of me finished, and that was good.

And then she came back out the way she went in, which was something else (I won't say "bad", but it was a kind of "not great", especially the climbing over me part).

But there must have been a reason. There often is a reason for things, and instead of continuing through the process, walking away, and making an exit from the store, she decided to do an about-face and climb over me and go back into the store. But hey.

That left me first in line, a place I can both understand and make use of.

I advanced.

I put my packet of 25 (or 29) sheets down, price-side up, and hoped for the best. (Meaning that I would be out of the store in around 30 seconds, or in the neighborhood of one second per sheet, which was acceptable.)

Ah, life these days.

I hadn't seen a touch-screen cash register before. Is high-tek and all.

I believe that the young woman in charge of its care and use scanned my packet of paper, but maybe not. I was already thinking about the nice walk home.

Anyway, something was not working. Maybe having the price of 58 cents on the package confused the equipment. The young woman had to pause for a few seconds and think about what to do, and then began to furiously (using both hands) poke at the touch screen, which in turn made various virtual screens flash and rearrange themselves, change colors, and do all sorts of fancy maneuvers, all with apparently no effect.

No good effect, I guess we should say.

I didn't see any good effects from my end, but then despite my decades of experience buying things, I am not a professional cash register wrangler.

I guess the young woman was unaware of this, and of my language deficiency, because after half a minute of poking her fingers at the screen so rapidly that I saw only a blur, she stopped.

And turned.

To me.

And said.

Something.

Which didn't help either of us.

So, back to the poking for her.

And then something happened. Don't ask what because I have no clue, but it was time for her to take money from me, and then she gave me some change, and then I left.

I have no idea if I paid for the paper or if she gave up and simply went through the motions to save face, and threw my money away, or spent it on beer, but I got the paper and the right amount of change, and now, back in my room, I keep a close watch on that paper. I don't want to use any of it, because.

You know what happens when you use things up.

You have to go.

And buy.

More.

And I'm not ready for that yet.

So I'll hold off on the using-the-paper part, and see what happens next.

Which won't be going back to that store for more paper, not if I can learn to live a paperless life, it won't.

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