a wandering woman writes

Friday, July 22, 2005

Todo mal quita

Q: How many Spanish maintenance men does it take to fix the barely functioning handle of a barely opening door?

A: None, if you have a quart of olive oil and the eldest daughter of a Spanish locksmith handy.

After months of painfully ungraceful exits and entrances (best described as a short woman grabbing hold of an uncomfortably high door handle, then jumping up and down until the mechanism miraculously catches and the door opens) I am now gliding in and out of my apartment, sneaking in unnoticed at all kinds of odd hours....and basking in the luxury of a door that actually works.

I asked for help. My Spanish landlady suggested I try toothpicks. I asked again. "Toothpicks", she told me. I tried toothpicks. Nothing.

Then a friend, an equally short woman, tried to leave my apartment without going through the jumping ritual described above.

And everything changed.

"Where's the olive oil?", she hollered as she made a beeline for the kitchen.

It was the next line that got me.

"¡¡Aceite de oliva, todo mal quita!!"

Roughly translated, olive oil fixes everything.
An oft-repeated adage, apparently.
Particularly among locksmiths.

She repeated it at least 10 times as she poured Spanish Extra Virgin into my door. Maybe that's part of the ritual, I'm not sure.

A few hundred milliliters and a hundred turns later, the handle was catching with the touch of a finger. Smells a bit like a summer salad in the entrance hall but who's complaining? Three months later the door still opens like a charm.

"Trust me", she said. "My father was a locksmith."

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