Slow the Gringo Down

I have read that if you get impatient with a Latino service provider that you could aggravate the situation, and today I experienced that very phenomenon.

I was at the grocery store and found what I thought was the shortest checkout line, but after I had emptied my cart on the belt I learned that the family in front of me, after paying for their groceries, wanted to buy multiple gift certificates and do any number of other post-sale activities (including chat with the cashier).

What the hell do you do in situations like this?  Normally I have a book or my iPod with me for situations just like this, but alas not this day.  So you wait and watch, and wait and try to appear invisible, and wait and review the items for sale at the checkout, and wait and consider moving all of your stuff to another line, and wait …, etc.

Meanwhile, the senorita cashier (maybe 19 years old) can´t help but notice my growing impatience, and apparently, decides to stretch the process even more and Slow the Gringo Down.

Finally, after waiting for what seemed like enough time for a baby to be conceived and born, she´s just about to start scanning my items when some young hombre shows up with his few items and persuades her (without too much prompting) to process his sale before mine.  I´m standing there where the bagger would normally be standing, watching this scene.  She did not dare to turn around and look at me, and processed his sale while enjoying a chuckle with him in Spanish.  And then post-sale, she continues to chat with him like he´s an old friend and they just met on the street.

At that point I lost my cool and angrily said to her in Spanish something like, “Young Lady!  A little bit faster please!”  Then the hombre looked at me as if to say, “What the F — is the matter with you, Gringo?,” while continuing to stand in the middle of the lane.  So then I angrily waved at him to get out, and barked “Adios!”  Then he uttered a Spanish word at me that I didn´t recognize, which is probably a good thing.  It sounded like a word I´ve heard yelled at soccer games toward members of the opposing team (or at members of your team if they are playing sucky soccer that night).

Then the senorita decides that she does not know the price of the vegetables and fruits that I´ve selected, and dispatches a coworker with them to the produce department to verify the prices.  At this point I am standing in the lane where I should be, waiting to pay, and looking at her to see if she will at least look at me.  No, she continues to scan the crowd looking for the lost coworker, and, not wanting to make her feel threatened, I too scan the crowd.  After another long wait, and just before I was about to give up on the whole process, my produce returned.

When she finally handed me my receipt, I was so pissed that I was the one that could not, or dare not, look at her.  It was not my finest moment in culturally sensitivity, and I sincerely hope that in the future I will be able to get out my ego and become the observer in situations like that, to be present in the moment and not be bothered even when it seems that I am being provoked.

In any case, grace appeared in the form of Juan, the young lad who appeared to wheel my groceries out to the bus stop.  When he learned I was taking the bus, he dashed back into the grocery store to get me a huge plastic bag that would make it easier to carry all my groceries on the bus.  While we walked the 2 blocks to the bus stop, I learned that he had just arrived from Peru to start law school in Cuenca.  Maybe he should study shoppers’ rights.

This entry was posted in #Ecuador, #Latino.


  1. HeelerMom January 25, 2012 at 10:36 AM #

    Too bad you didn’t have your knitting . . . all those wasted mornings at the Coffee Garden, you could have been learning to knit, and you could have made a whole pair of useful socks while you were waiting and smiling:)

  2. Keith January 25, 2012 at 5:27 PM #

    And a matching scarf too!

  3. Jorge Jimenez January 26, 2012 at 11:50 AM #

    Hey Keith, you haven’t wait in a gov process line yet… that’s a looooong waiting. Maybe in our countries we haven’t hear the american sentence: “time is money”… or maybe it isn’t.

  4. Bobbi Lewin February 24, 2012 at 3:58 PM #

    This reminds me of some of my experiences when I was in Peru. I remember on one occasion when my group went to the post office to buy stamps. The clerk sold stamps to my fellow traveler in front of me, but when I stepped up, she said they didn’t have any. Meanwhile, my other fellow traveler was in the next lane. Buying stamps! I was so confused and really struggling to keep my cool:)