So, I was out the other evening getting some last-minute item for my other half because it was February 14th and, even though we agreed that we would not fall for the bizarre tradition of having to demonstrate your love on a particular date just because the retail industry was putting pressure on us, I knew that wasn’t true. Which is why I found myself perusing around the Corte Inglés gourmet section along with half a dozen other men who were there for the very same reason and donning worried looks of inadequacy as time ran out. They were all about my age and clearly knew better than to believe the fateful words, “Don’t get me anything. I don’t want anything.”
There was also a small gathering of foreigners in the middle receiving a mini-course and tasting on Jabugo ham which had nothing to do with the challenge at hand and only served to distract my attention needlessly. I homed in on the chocolate stands and picked up a box of Belgian delights, truffles, even better, smirked triumphantly as I headed for the register and left my competition behind. Once at the station, I waited for the price to get rung up and then let my card hover over the machine so that my credit information can magically float over to its destiny and approval can be given. Yes, even after all these years, I can say that I still get a certain sense of satisfaction out of seeing the word “aprobado” pop up on that tiny screen. It makes me feel proud. It says “I’m solvent”, which is not something many writers can claim. The mirth is usually short-lived and by the time I have the receipt and bag in my hand it’s become a recent memory.
But this time I was assaulted by a simple quiz on customer satisfaction. At first glance it didn’t require much deep meditation. There were five faces in a row, emoticons for lack of a better word, each expressing different degree of satisfaction, or not. It started on the right with a furious expression and progressively improved until the final head on the left appeared to be laughing out loud which, no matter how successful my trip to the department store has been, I think is a rather overstated reaction to the otherwise ordinary practice of purchasing a product.
To be honest, I don’t known really what they were asking me to rate. Was the store all right? Did I find what I was looking for? How well the woman performed her duties at the cash register? Was I happy being the dumbfuck who actually answers these questions? I’ll confide that when I’m feeling particularly rebellious in today’s otherwise tame society, I refuse to provide the store with my zip code. It’s sort of last bastion on self-respect.
I’ve seen these gimmicky things at store entrances, but I had never had one stuck in my face without previous warning, so I kind of panicked. I put my index finger on the second face, the one that was smiling, because honestly, the chuckling one just didn’t seem to fitting. It was past eight o’clock at the end of the long day of work and, once again, I had caved into the truth.
But as I stepped away, I started thinking about my decision. I would quite go as far as to say I was regretting it; perhaps I should have been better informed. What if the woman had expected the far-left option? What if I had disappointed her? What if the smiley face was a little too cheerful for such an un-enthralling episode? Shouldn’t I have just to the middle ground? It was fine, and that was all. No need to throw a party. But here was the biggest question: what the hell was the Corte Inglés doing by making me spend the five next minutes of my life questioning whether or not I had done the right thing, when all I wanted to do was pay for the goddamn Belgian chocolates? It just ain’t right, I tell you.