Living in Spain

Siesta-Shafting Supermarket Showdown

It’s one of those airless, heat-wave-hot Madrid days when the pavements empty at 3pm and the air coming up off the street burns…

Baby wouldn’t cooperate with his parents desperately needed siesta plan, so I take him for a walk around the neighbourhood, hoping some pram-(stroller)-time will send him to sleep…

…but it’s 38 degrees outside… and there’s only so much hill I’m willing to push him up and down in this heat… only 6 hours sleep last night… god I needed this siesta – we’ve partly gone out of the flat so Marina can get hers at least, and if baby sleeps from all this walking, well, that’s great too, I’ll deal with my rest-deficit later…

…too hot pushing him up and down this hill (even on the shady side of the street) though, so we dive into the local supermarket to get 2 bottles of water – it’ll be air-con at least, and we’ll kill 5 minutes.

So we get the water, and head to the front to pay… but something weird is going on… just as we approach the checkout, I see a female member of staff telling a male colleague to follow her ‘right now‘…

…they overtake us just as we reach the back of the short queue, and the male Supermarket guy goes straight up one of the two tall, young, barrio 20-somethings standing just in front of me, my pram and my baby…

Supermarket Guy to Young Guy 1: “Show me what you’ve got stuffed in your pocket…”

Young Barrio Guy 1 (moving to within an inch of Supermarket guy’s nose): “You want me to smash your face in?”

Me to Baby (reversing rapidly): “Let’s go and have a look at what’s at the back of the store…” (This was shaping up to be one PG scene I thought baby probably didn’t need to witness…)

So we head to the furthest corner of the store, as all the other male supermarket guys rush past us heading to the front following an emergency call from reception, and we spend the next five minutes at the back of the shop with me nonchalantly pointing out interesting hams and packets of milk and different kinds of butter to the baby, as all hell breaks loose at the front…

…how long till the police get here?! A few mums and young teenage girls are playing the ‘let’s see what’s at the back of the store’ game with me, until at last the commotion dies down, we give it a minute for safety, and I head back to the checkout, hoping to pay and get out before the bad guys come back… which, according to the scared-looking and 8 months pregnant checkout girl, is exactly what they have promised to do later.

Meanwhile the entire male staff of the store, and a couple of their female colleagues, are piling back in from the street, after the bad-guys made their get away.

A young supermarket girl: “They punched Juan in the face, and opened up his mouth.”

Juan then appears, looking pretty boosted on adrenalin, and shows everyone his split lip: everyone agrees ice in a plastic bag is in order.

Finally, just as we get our change, two young cops turn up, and the staff start telling them how the bad guys just left on a motorbike. The 3 more cop cars that turn up as we are on our way out, head off in search of the baddies.

Baby and I give up on the siesta and the stroll, and head home to wake mum up.


– You know when you’ve had enough city for one year, and it’s time to get out for a holiday. Even if you weren’t sure, suffocating 38º heat and street fighting certainly drives the point home.

– Why on earth do supermarket staff have to challenge shoplifters – is the shelf-stacking supermarket guy’s split lip (and obviously the result could have been a LOT worse) – really worth the price of whatever can be stuffed into a stupid barrio kids pocket? Hey management, either put security in, or let the barrio guys get away with it, but don’t put your staff in the punching line (note: pregnant checkout girl said “those guys WILL come back later, this sort of thing happens here all the time, and I know when they mean it, those two were seriously crazy…”)

– One of the barrio guys apparently said he’d also bring his girlfriend when they came back later, so she could punch one of the supermarket girls for him. Nice couple. Honourable behaviour and all that.

– If this is meant to be a pretty nice barrio, and “this sort of thing happens all the time”, what’s going wrong?

– Happy Summer Holidays… We’re out of here soon, so this may be my last post for a few weeks.

– You never get a siesta when you really, really, really need it. When you want a siesta as badly as I wanted one today, it generally gets seriously shafted!