THE CULTURAL TIGHTROPE
WHO FOLLOWS RULES?
I know I made a vow not to be overly critical in this column after the troubles the last couple of years have brought upon us all, but a couple of related things have annoyed me this past month and I’m trying to decide whether they have a cultural basis or not.
Firstly, I was in a well-known hardware store in central Barcelona recently and my companion and I had just descended from the top floor only to realise we had to go back up for something, so we decided to take the lift rather than climb the stairs again. Now there is a rather large sign on the lift door stating very clearly that for COVID-19 reasons, the maximum number allowed in the lift is two people, and then only if you are from the same bubble. We duly entered the empty lift upon its arrival, only for a middle-aged woman to come charging in just as the doors were closing. My companion and I both pointed out the regulation clearly printed on the door, to which the woman replied “I work here”, seemingly in the belief that said condition either allowed her to act with impunity or made us all immune from the virus. However, she had not reckoned on the resolve of her travel companions, and we both instantly countered her with our own thoughts on the impunity/immunity idea, my companion saying “all the more reason to follow the rules of the store where you work… this is a serious health issue”, to which the woman replied “I have to clock in with my time card”. We persisted in our criticism of her behaviour and attitude until we reached the top floor, at which point she exited the lift rolling her eyes, oblivious to our complaints.
The next anecdote, which is not really much of one, but seems to exhibit the same flagrant disregard for rules as the first – I’ve lived in Germany remember, so I know what it’s like to live somewhere where people follow them – took place at Hospital Clínic. Regular readers will know that this is a place I visit fairly often due to a long-term treatment I am receiving. Some time ago, I’m not sure how long, the hospital put up huge signs everywhere saying “la bata no passeja”, a cute way of saying “do not leave the hospital building wearing your white doctor’s coat”. I assume this is for hygiene reasons, though I could be wrong. Anyway, it will come as no surprise to you to learn that each time I visit the hospital I see any number of doctors wandering, strolling and ambling out of the hospital gates right past the huge sign, wearing their white doctor’s coat.
This latter example would seem to suggest that the impulse to ignore rules is not restricted to one social stratum, as doctors are also prepared to do it in full sight of the population without batting an eyelid. It does of course also allow members of the public to take what I consider to be quite humorous photos like one you see on this page. But humour aside, I’m left with the question: why is it so anathema to people in this country to stick to rules made for the benefit of everyone? Replies welcome.