‘The experience’: The law of maximum minimums II

This is an atypical post, it is not the result of some thematic reflection on the topics I would like to share with you through the blog; this post results from the events which are taking place during this long weekend stated in the constitution in which half country is on holiday and the other half (in which I include myself) has become a victim of the delays caused by air traffic control.

In any case, I think that what is happening is merely the reflection and development of the concept of ‘the law of maximum minimums’; this is why I have chosen this title for the post: ‘The law of maximum minimums. 2nd part’.

Friday, 3rd December; 6:15 a.m.: I arrive at the Prat Airport in Barcelona to fly to Bilbao and then to drive to San Sebastian, where I have many work meetings.

I am surprised at the huge number of people who are at the airport at this time (it seems 1st August), specifically families with children who are going on holidays. Mi first thought is: What happens with these children’s school? Are they already at the macro long weekend? Or is it that their parents do not care about taking another day off, missing classes and setting a poor example of the responsibility each of us has in this society? Isn’t our country one of the countries with the biggest school failure? Their children’s education is not clearly one of some Spanish families’ maxims.

The second thought is unavoidable: Aren’t we in crisis? Don’t we live in a country with 20% of the population on strike? Have all this people taken another day off that must be added to the macro long weekend in the constitution? Isn’t productivity one of the most serious problems of our economy? Is this the degree of awareness of what each of us can do in our different places to make the country move forward so that we can have a brighter future ahead?

They all have happy faces and they look enviably calm; is it that nobody reads the news? …or they just don’t care about what they read?; is this the week of the great turmoil of sovereign debts, in which the stock market has fallen by 6 points in 2 days, the Government has announced privatizations and the termination of the extension of the unemployment benefit? Am I witnessing an illustration of the Mediterranean mind, the Latin people’s attitude toward life and the Spanish ‘que me quiten lo bailao’ (a Spanish phrase that means that something was worth the experience)?

Friday, 3rd December; 4:30 p.m. I drive a rented car from San Sebastian to the Bilbao Airport where I am taking a flight back to Barcelona in order to start my weekend. New surprise: In the airport security control there is a very long queue (as in August). I have read in the news that the islands’ (Balearic and Canary) and the snow tourism offer is almost 100% of occupancy; so the thought is: Has the Spanish consumption priority changed so much? In moments of economic harshness, have we placed the need for travelling and having holidays before other priorities?

Friday, 3rd December, 8:30 p.m.: My fear has become a reality; controllers have come out on wild ‘strike’ and there is no possibility of flying back home. If one does not give economic figures of wages and bonuses to the conditions of air traffic controllers, it would seem that we are facing a basic demand from coal mining or shipbuilding trade unions (the tools are the same; very hard trade unions, radical clash and wild and forceful actions): The controllers’ minimums are undoubtedly highly maximum, probably in relation with the remaining citizens’ distance from reality.

Friday, December 3rd, 10:30 p.m.: After risking my life, I rented a car (my 3 weekly trips have been heavy) and I drive to Zaragoza where I am spending the night and the next day I am taking a high speed train to Barcelona.

I am listening to the special program of Cadena Ser about the air chaos and I hear countless testimonies of Spanish maximum minimums: Those who try to fly because they really need it (surgical operations, weddings and baptisms, funerals, etc.), those like me who are flying back home after a week, 3 days or a hard working day (most of them under stressing conditions), those who want to go on holidays after having saved all the year and may not be able to go again until the next year (for time and money reasons); I also hear people who are outraged because they had to change their week in London for a ski week in Baqueira where they can get by car). This makes up a wide catalogue of maximum minimums.

In parallel, I hear some demands from controllers: Their jobs’ stressing condition, the working-day requirement they have to meet, how hard it is to make a living, etc. I start drawing parallelisms with officers who have had their wages cut, emergency doctors who are overloaded with patients’ demand, the city bus driver who deals with traffic, collects tickets, controls fares and bears the drivers’ and fares ‘compliments’. This is undoubtedly another lesson of maximum minimums.

Saturday, 4th December, 12:30 a.m.: I stop by a motorway service area in Calahorra to have something to eat. I meet euphoric and over excited waiters: It looks as if today (Saturday) in the afternoon the FC Barcelona bus heading to Pamplona will stop in the service area. Whoever is not content it is because he/she doesn’t want to; another lesson of maximum minimums and the social importance of football.

Saturday, 4th December; 1:30 a.m.: Delicias Station in Zaragoza, Hotel USA Delicias; there must be a convention of the Chinese consulate, the hotel is full of Chinese people, they all look pleased and happy as Chinese, they are opening loads of sample boxes of goods; I don’t know what this is about but there is frantic activity. There must not be many people in Spain who do not care about air traffic control and if this is not the case, it is all covered by the sudden increase of minimums they are achieving as a society.

I don’t like this station; I find it architecturally nice but I think it is one of the coldest places in Spain; it’s like a huge fridge (the architect and the users have clearly an inverted law of maximum minimums, another example of maximizing infrastructure over service…there are so many!!). The hotel receptionist gives me a room ‘in a wing which is usually closed’… I cannot get a wink of sleep all night!, it’s so cold that the air conditioning cannot raise the temperature…the news about controllers and their life conditions are still on TV.

Saturday, 4th December, 11:30 a.m.: Finally, I arrive in Barcelona; it has been more than 48 hours since I last slept and I am travelling through this country and its huge catalogue of maximum minimums. Such a social lesson.

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Mª Luisa Vives – Jaime Gross

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