Tomorrow I return late library materials.
DVDs, to be exact. DVDs that didn't work. DVDs that blew my brilliant learn-colloquial-expressions-watching-movies-and-sound-more-like-a-native plan, although that's a blog entry for another day.
Thing is, I'd rather do this the American way. I'd rather march up to the library desk, look the librarian square in the eye and push my late returns across the desk. I'd rather pay my late fine, pat myself on the back for contributing to the public good and be on my merry way.
Yet, for reasons that escape me, Salamanca makes conscientious use of my public library less than convenient, at least for spoiled Chicagoans addicted to self-service lives and 24 hour drop boxes. To return my borrowed goods, I first have to manage to arrive during library hours, always a considerable challenge. Then I have to pay to store everything I've brought with me in a 1 euro lobby locker. Finally, I have to enter the library armed only with the materials I want to return. There I'll join the line at the circulation desk and wait for the librarian to give me a thumbs up on my due dates.
It's when that thumbs up doesn't show that things get tricky.
Take tomorrow, for example. Tomorrow I will line up with my fellow citizens. I'll slink up to the librarian, eyes glued to the floor, then I'll silently push the DVD boxes across the desk. After a quick scan, the librarian will recognize the flashing OVERDUE message on his computer screen and look at me over his half moon glasses. He'll clear his throat and announce my punishment in that impressive public speaking voice every Spaniard seems to have perfected while reciting Siglo de Oro poetry in grade school.
"No se puede sacar materiales hasta.."
"You cannot check out anything else until.."
A gasp will run through the crowd. I'll be shut off. Exiled. Unwelcome. Denied my library privileges for just as many days as I illegally held onto the DVDs.
I have to admit that I do find the Spanish method powerful. Shame, expulsion, public humiliation. They work. Like any red-blooded American, I stand ready to pay my way out of my predicament, but the Spanish will have none of it. I must learn. No se puede.
May I add that I am always on time for work, appointments and social occasions? Meanwhile, my fellow Salmantinos are, well, not. Can't I save up Salamanca punctual points or something?? Why is library punctuality so much more important than pinchos punctuality, I ask?
I can only hope some tall dark Spaniard behind me in the check-out line will find my bold defiance of library rules exciting and strike up a conversation.
Either way Spain is making a better woman out of me.
Punctual with library returns, anyway.