Monday, June 5, 2017

No Exito – Erich

There is this story my mother sometimes tells about me as a little boy. I'm talking a toddler. So, at that age I was an avid fan of Sesame Street. And it had its various segments in which they taught you words with little songs and clips.

Well, one day my mother had me with her at a store. I don't recall if it was a grocery store or clothing store or something else. But the type of store is not germane to the story. While we were there I apparently dazzled some of the other women who were shopping because I saw one of the lit exit signs. Recalling my excellent Sesame based education system I pointed to the sign and said, "Exit, mommy. That says exit. It's the way, way, way, way out."

In Colombia, one of the big grocery store chains is called Exito. They are recognizable by the branding color of yellow. Each has a big yellow wall on the outside of the building with Exito written in black letters.

Of course, you might be afraid that seeing Exito in big letters, no one would be willing to enter. After all, the exit is the way, way, way, way out. Right?

Wrong. Because the Spanish word "exito" does not mean "exit." It means "success". And who wouldn't want to step into success.

It's a good thing too, because if you couldn't step into the Exito, not only would the store go out of business, not only would you likely starve, but you would miss amazing items for sale. Like this yard of cookies. Yes, you heard that right. It's a yard. It has an actual yardstick on the package.
A full 36 inches
Of course, the funny thing is that I never saw these European cookies in Europe. Only here in Colombia where almost no one speaks English did I see this well labeled in English box of cookies.

And no, we did not buy them. When you carry all of your groceries home in backpacks, a yard long box is not conducive to easy transport by mochila (Spanish for backpack).
Consult often!
The other thing note about Exito is that in several places in the store they have these kiosk stands where you can check the prices of things. Now, you are thinking, no big deal. We have those kiosks at home. And that's true, we do. But the difference here is that you really need them! You see about a third of the items on the shelves have no price labels. And of those that do, often the label is several inches, sometimes feet (maybe even a yard) from where the item is located on the shelf.

By the way, if one kept rapt attention on Sesame Street, you were likely to see those clips replayed in Spanish. So I would have also learned that "salida" meant the way, way, way, way out. And as you learn more Spanish, you see why that is very sensible.

You see the verb to leave is "salir" in Spanish. And the place you leave, the exit is "salida." Similarly, the verb to enter is "entrar" in Spanish, and the way in is the "entrada."

So if you find yourself one day in an Exito grocery store in Colombia and you want back out into the sunlight, don't follow the signs with the name of the store. Because, it's just as Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, No Exit. Or No Salida. Or actually Huis Clos, because he was writing in French.

But you won't get lost. Because regardless of language you can follow the green man from the universal symbol for exit.
Green means go! Or leave. Or both.
It's the way, way, way, way out.

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