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While I don’t think I’m at the same obsessive-compulsive level as Melvin Udall, Jack Nicholson’s misanthropic character in the 1997 film As Good as It Gets, I can get rather annoyed if certain aspects of my daily routine change without my advanced knowledge.
In fact, akin to Melvin, I’m known to become quite cranky when there are changes at my panadería “office” (bakery/café). (As an aside, in my childhood days, it was Nicholson’s Jack Napier/Joker character in the 1989 Batman film that I thought my adult life would most closely mimic. I guess there’s still time for that.)
After a few, um, difficult weeks in the aftermath of the tumultuous temporary closure to facilitate a new administration at my old panadería office, Vicky’s, I managed to find a replacement establishment that satisfied my modest needs — La Corona Real (no, not that corona) in the barrio in which I currently reside, Verbenal.
To be honest, even when Vicky’s was number one, I had been using La Corona Real as a secondary option — I’m not completely averse to spicing things up every now and again, you know.
‘It would most likely be a positive development if my daily frequenting of the panadería office was curtailed somewhat.’
However, the latter’s tendency for a high turnover of table-service staff — ‘meseras’ as they say here (and they are almost exclusively women) — put it at a disadvantage.
While my dark coffee with a drop of milk in an actual ceramic cup (‘un tinto con una gota de leche en pocillo’ in Spanish) may not seem like the most absurd request, for many panadería employees here it does actually appear to be something unheard of. It’s either a 50-50 coffee-milk mix or 100 per cent coffee with a disposable cup the default option, no deviations.
Nonetheless, with a little patience and gentle instruction, there is a way. Also, and crucially, for the last few months, there had been continuity in terms of those at the coalface, nay the coffee machine — the aforementioned table servers. Thus, I hadn’t had to explain from scratch every second week how I like my brew. I hadn’t had to, that is.
Change, though, does come, whether we like it or not. And very often it can be dramatic.
OK, the comings and goings of panadería staff aren’t quite on the Vladimir Ilyich Lenin level of change — ‘There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.’ — but it’s all relative, isn’t it?
One could cope with the departure of one or two of the mesera team of six or so, but when all bar one move on at the same time, well that’s a shock to the system.
Cushioning this blow somewhat is that the girl who remains, Wendy, originally from the Venezuelan state of Táchira — a gocha as they call them — is top-notch. She’s been a great help in getting the newbies up to speed on my particular, not-terribly-demanding wants. (Another plus point for Wendy is that she, whisper it, gave me the password for the establishment’s WiFi on the sly. What the middle-aged brothers who own the place don’t know, won’t kill them.)
That aside, truth be told — it’s something this blog always seeks to do, tell the truth — it would most likely be a positive development if my daily frequenting of the panadería office was curtailed somewhat. It would probably mean that I got a job that required my physical presence elsewhere. What a novelty that would be, eh?
For as much as the Bogotá-standard — be it the panadería or the tienda — has helped keep one sane throughout the pandemic, its continued regular use could be seen as a sign of stagnation. Or, more appropriately considering the general state of affairs, stagflation.
So one likes to think this isn’t as good as it gets. It’s pretty mediocre if it is.
Listen to Wrong Way’s Colombia Cast podcast here.