10 July 2007


The Cheat enlightens us about the "thing of wonder" that is the "malodorous" portero, Paco.

Once upon a time, Europe was a place of gentlemen and ladies, of velvet curtains and brass balustrades, of mice and men.  During those times, the great and the good lived in splendid opulence in vast 18’ ceilinged apartments festooned with French doors, separate nurseries, and quarters for the servants.  Among these servants, drawn as they were from the Great Unwashed masses roaming the streets, was the portero.  This highly coveted accoutrement of baroque living was the ultimate status symbol.  “Look at me.  I’m so rich I have a guy dressed like a circus act opening my door for me.” 

Oh how times have changed.  The new unit that I have moved into is one of these leftovers from a bygone age that has incorporated, into its ground floor, an office for a portero.  Mine is named Paco.  And Paco is the last of a dying breed.

Each morning, Paco arrives at his station at the crack of 8:30 and lights a cigarette.  The first of many, he stands sentinel just outside the door on the sidewalk quietly smoking and staring off into space, a veritable vision of rectitude and discipline.  When he sees me, or any other resident of the building, a broad smile quickens across his blotchy, mottled face, turning his head into a reddish beacon.  Then, with hoarse voice and its accompanying rasp, he sends his greeting and pronounces the condition of the day.  Perhaps this fine morning is one of those “buenos dias”, or perhaps those dark clouds racing across the sky signify “que frio”.  Paco is a man who understands the significance of meteorology, if not the carcinogenic effects of tobacco.

When I am upstairs, occupied with the business of making money, Paco avails himself of every opportunity to relieve me of the petty annoyances that may disturb my work.  For example, when that rabble from Aiguas Barcelona came knocking to irritate my pipes, Paco flashed into action, deploying the highly successful maneuver of shrugging shoulders and feigning ignorance.  Thus diverted from my path, the rabble rousers were dispatched to the weary streets leaving me in peace.

Paco is, a fine specimen and a gentlemen through and through.  Although he does not bother with the smaller vulgarities like sweeping the foyer or personal hygiene, he makes up for his lack of cleanliness with his always fashionable comportment.  Not one to interfere with business, whenever a courier calls, he becomes scarce and is nowhere to be seen, often disappearing for hours without a trace.  Impressively stealthy, despite his chain smoking and malodorous nature, Paco becomes invisible during these times, one assumes, to avoid the prickly issue of work.  Far far be it for a mere portero to assume the mantle of officialdom, to dare to accept packages on behalf of myself, a Captain of Industry.  No, better that the courier be sent off in confusion (naturally, there are no doorbells or buzzers).  Some controller can telephone me personally, and arrange to have the package delivered on another date, less obtrusive to protocol.

Finally, Paco exudes the very qualities of that Life Less Ordinary that we all as Spain Expats have sought here in this vast and magnificent land: that of the easy life.  No one works harder at enjoying life than does my portero, leaning back in his chair, filling his office with smoke and porn, truly absorbing all the minutiae of living that western philosophy has so far failed to reconnoiter.  Truly, Paco is a thing of wonder, nay, a privilege for which I pay € 78 a month. 

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