This is not just a linguistic lesson, but a cultural one as well. I had to go to my job yesterday just to check in and sign some foreigner papers. (I know, it was a horrible hour as the stamp of anti-local came smashing down page after page, reminding me of the fact that I do not congressionally belong). Anyways, I arrived an hour early, to make sure I found the office okay and had enough time to check myself in some reflective edifice before walking in to ensure the best first impression. In that hour, I decided to get a coffee while I waited. I walked into this café and let me set the scene. Upon entering into the café at 9 a.m., there are two men seated at two slot machines, smoking cigarettes and aggressively pulling down the handle of fate, wishing that this next play will bring about some fortunate outcome, fortunate enough to remove them from the drudge of the 9-5. Then, sitting along the counter next to them are men in suits, each with a dark colored suit, a white shirt, and a solid tie, with an espresso, toast and a side of arrogance. I walk in a mosey my way to one of the tables on the side of the café, shying away from the male domination at the counter, fearing that a small mishap will awaken some culturally abominable beast offending each and every man and his family individually.
As I took my seat, I realized something, only women were seated. It was this gender mating dance inside this café. As the male stock frantically drank their espresso and jeered each other about the trial and tribulations of providing for a family and celebrating their role as alpha males, the subservient women took some default role at the tables, allowing the males to prance around in occupation while they sat at ease perhaps gossiping about which male they were trying to attract. Noticing this divide, I immediately ran up to the counter, sat down, ordered a café con pan tostado con mantequilla and sighed. Crisis averted. I drank my espresso as I basked in the society-approved role of dominance and power. I acted busy, constantly looking at the clock, further delving into this charade of sorts. I felt respected, I felt a part. I left the same amount as the guy next to me, without asking for my bill, because locals know prices and are not bothered by the formalities of checks.