Taking life as it comes day by day
Cats and dogs love routine. They must eat at every day roughly at the same hour, take a walk or play at roughly the same hours, sleep at the same hour, etc. They find it strange if people or places around them change too much. Cats in particular are very fussy about any object that is not in its usual place inside the house. (For those interested, I wrote a brief book about the history of our interactions with pets).
Humans love routine too, even though sometimes we think we don’t. The proof is how quickly we adapt to a new place and create a new daily routine, almost instantly.
I’ve been in Catalonia for less than two weeks and, since I am only working remotely these days, I already have my daily routine of walks and cafes, with only a few variations. In the mornings I usually go to the fancy cafe up the hill, which has the best croissants but is a bit expensive for anything more substantial; in the evenings, I go to the “bar del chino” near the beach which has the cheapest bocadillos and the coldest beer.
Today, however, I inverted things and I am in the evening in the cafe up the hill. (I am a bit more flexible than cats and dogs, plus, I will — alas! — leave Barcelona soon and my routine will change, again.) The waiter here is a sympathetic young man with black-painted fingernails. I don’t think he’s gender-fluid or anything, it’s just that it’s that kind of fancy, alternative, modern place. If it was a girl, she would have lots of tattoos, blue hair and a nose ring.
He seems to be an exception. Young people here in Spain, or at least in this lazy suburban place, seem to dress more conventionally than in other places. In Germany, at least in the big cities, most young women you come across have hair painted in unnatural colours, several nose rings, weird clothes, tattoos. Here tattoos are — unfortunately — common too, but young people in general look a little bit less conspicuous.
Drinking a cappuccino instead of a beer, I am more alert and attentive to my surroundings. I overhear the conversations around me. A woman is talking to a man about her recent experiences as a failed migrant in Australia.
“Because in Australia, they don’t like the Spanish so much. They think Spanish people are… Well, they discriminate against us,” she says.
“Ah. Like us with the Argentines,” replies the man.
(I am an Argentine by birth, but I have never felt any discrimination here. To be fair, neither my accent nor my looks give me away.)
On another table, someone is saying that you have to choose well your profession. “If you are, for instance, a translator, you won’t find many jobs.”
(I am, among other things, a translator. And he’s right, there’s no much work lately, and what there is, is not well paid. AI is taking it all.)
The only consolation is that it is taking everybody else’s jobs too. In Germany, I’ve noticed that many shops and supermarkets started transitioning to automatic cashiers. Some places do not even accept cash anymore, in a transition to digital money. Yet people still cheer and hype about AI, even as it steals our jobs and makes us redundant. The newspaper I’m reading at the cafe — a real news-paper, those still exist here — has several articles about AI. It will probably make many journalists redundant too. Yet, the only complaint they can find is that it “consumes a lot of energy and therefore contributes to climate change”. (Modern life is all about stressing yourself with imaginary problems, while ignoring real ones.)
Me? Well, you know, I’m basically a Luddite. I still listen to vinyl records and read paper books and old style newspapers (if I can get them for free, as I don’t like to pay for propaganda, thank you).
Here in this suburban town in Catalonia, time seems to have stood still — at least, a little bit. There are no self-checkout cashiers around, and all places accept cash.
I wish I could stay longer, but, like a stray dog without a home, my routine has to adapt to the circumstances. Here today, gone tomorrow.
In the end, isn’t this how we all live?