One Line to Order, One Line to Pay (and One to Rule Them All)

Day 009 – July 31, 2011

On this fine (and still cloudy) Sunday, we made another outing to Jockey Plaza, but this time we were in the capable and friendly hands of our Orienteering Foster Family (OFF), the Valenzeulas, who had three children close in ages to our own trio of progeny. The purpose of the OFF is to help newbies to the country of Peru get their bearings in their new environment that can be quite different from the place they left. For my money, having an OFF is certainly better than simply being thrown into a new locale and left to fend for one’s (of family’s) self. Having a group of people who have been in the country for some time helps with situations like the one we had in this mall.

After having lunch in a restaurant specializing in meat and Peruvian chicken, (Mediterraneo Chicken for those of you keeping track of our comings and goings), we treated the whole group to some gelato.

It would seem to my linear mind (and this has been my experience in every State-side ice cream shop I have been in) that the process for obtaining this sweet treat would be to…

1) Sidle up to the counter.
2) Order your flavor.
3) Receive cone/cup with requested flavor.
4) Pay.

All four steps can be done with the same worker but it is not unheard of for another worker to be involved in Step 4.

As you can already surmise, this is not the case in the City of Kings.

For our little outing to Gelato-Land, I sampled both the fresa flavor and the mango flavors. In my best (a relative term) Spanish, I said, Yo quiero una taza con fresa (“I would like one cup with strawberry”).

At this point, I would have expected to be handed my Styrofoam container with a plastic spoon and my chosen ball of strawberry-flavored goodness, but instead I was handed a piece of paper accompanied by some general hand-waving by the clerk as if shooing me away.

Have I offended? I thought. Have I said something inappropriate? Does taza imply some insult to a person’s maternal ancestry?

This is where Dawn, matriarch of the Valenzeula clan, came to our rescue by guiding me over to the caja.

(Linguistic Aside: The literal translation of caja is “box”. Here in Peru, the word is also used to denote a cashier or a place where you pay. English has a similar connotation in the sense that all the money generated by a movie or theater is called the “box office”. People paid for their tickets by handing money to a person sitting inside a box-like structure. Ain’t language great?)

With Dawn as my guide, I handed the piece of paper, which had my order, to the woman at the caja. She said something in Spanish that included a number and I handed over a twenty soles bill. She handed me some change and another piece of paper that showed that I had paid for my order (or in Peruvian parlance, “had cancelled my order“).

So armed with proof of payment, I went back to the original woman and had to tell her again what I wanted. She doled out one scoop of fresa gelato and all was right with the world.

I have remarked before on the apparent inefficiencies in this country, but I am truly trying to figure out why this Point A-to-Point B-back-to-Point A process is necessary. However that thought will have to wait as I have gelato to savor.

Ah, gelato…my preccciousss.

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About sinpolaris

sinpolaris is the psuedonym of a guy who likes to write.

Posted on October 28, 2011, in Difference, Peru and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I have never heard of an OFF, but man, that would’ve come in handy three months ago, LOL!

    • They do come in handy as it is always helpful to have someone who knows the ropes keep you from tripping up. After some time under our belt, we hope to be an OFF to the next unsuspecting arrivals.

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