I stopped at a roadside restaurant to get something to eat, actually restaurants are no longer in my budget, but I needed to recharge my batteries and I'd have to order something to do that.
It had been a few days since I spoke to anyone in person, other than "hola" and "gracias" to cashiers in markets, so when I pulled off the road to do something as ordinary as have a meal in a restaurant, I had forgotten about the language barrier. It wasn't until I walked in and heard all the Spanish chatter that I suddenly remembered I didn't know how to order food or ask if I could use an outlet.
I looked on the tables for a menu, so I could order by using a combination of Google Translate and pointing, but there weren't any, so I just sat at the bar. Two men were playing cards at the table in the corner behind me. I saw an outlet next to them. A waitress came up to get my order.
"Habla ingles?" I asked.
"No," she said.
"Café? Coffee?" I asked, wishing I knew how to say "Cup of". She nodded then walked away to give my order to a bartender.
I plugged in my phone and took a seat all the way at the end of the bar. I wanted to be as unnoticed as possible. The bartender set a cup of coffee in front of me.
Coffee in Spain is fantastic, very high octane and delicious. It's more like an espresso in the states. I'm no aficionado, but coffee is more than a drink to me. I don't react to the caffeine, but getting a cup of coffee is like being given extra time. If I'm not quite ready to start my day, I have coffee instead. If I need a break from work, I go to the coffee room. It's like a socially-acceptable smoke break that nobody questions. If I don't want a conversation at dinner to end, I order a coffee. If I need to charge some batteries and give myself more time to figure out how to say "Can I see a menu?" in Spanish, I get coffee.
I settled in around the tiny steaming cup and relaxed. I had time to think now. I pulled out my journal to write.
When I felt like I overstayed my welcome with just the one cup, I got the bartender's attention.
"Puedo... ver... un... menú?" I said slowly.
He held up one finger then walked away to talk to an older man wearing the same uniform. A few minutes later the older man came over to translate the hand written menu in his hands.
Initially I didn't understand him either, but in his sentence I picked out the words,"en francés, ingles?"
Oh, he wants to know what language I speak. "Ingles," I said.
He told me they had a set menu for €11.50, which is out of my budget but I let him continue.
"It uhh... to start we have salad with... something something mushroom something something." I couldn't understand every word.
"For the meat err, uhh rabbit. And snake." He looked up at me and paused then continued. "Also, uhh, octo... puss? Yes, octopus."
I stopped him there by waving my hand and saying, "no, gracias."
I couldn't spend my whole day's budget on one meal and still not be sure if the thing I'm chewing on is a tentacle or a snake. He walked away seeming a little perturbed.
I pulled out my phone and looked up how to say, "I'm sorry," in Spanish. Deciding I would need to use it frequently, I committed it to memory by whispering it aloud to myself, "lo siento, lo siento, lo siento."
I still wanted to charge my phone, so when I made eye contact with the bartender again, I lifted my coffee cup and said the one thing I knew how to say that would give me more time, "Uno mas, por favor."