Sheen at Expo Zaragoza



Sheen is delighted to say:


Well, it’s finally happened. It looked like the Expo was going to be waterlogged, washed away, and watered down, but the only deluge we’ve had has been the enormous number of people who have poured into the site to see what this Expo is all about.


I understand that for most people, I mean, people who don’t live in Zaragoza, this is no big deal. But for us Zaragozans, it’s the most mega happening since the World Hippopotamus-baiting Championship was staged here in 1975, won by local hero Olaf Johannsen. (Actually, he was Swedish or something, but he lived here in Zaragoza. Still does, in fact. I went to school with his daughter, and I bump into her occasionally but she pretends not to know me. Understandable, since I once set fire to her infuriating pigtails. But I was only 21 at the time, so you’d have thought she’d have forgiven me by now).


Anyway. Today I went to see what all the fuss was about. The weather was great, which was actually slightly disappointing seeing as how I wanted to show off my new oversize umbrella, but never mind. (It’s bright red and has something written in Chinese which I hope is obscene and offensive but I doubt it).


I had previously decided that I would visit this Expo several times (it’s like right on my doorstep!), so I didn’t feel obliged to check out every pavilion, stop at every stand, read every information panel and all that. This visit was going to be just a superficial walkabout, to check the pulse of the thing, see what kind of thing was on offer and what kind of people were there.


I was purposefully on my best behaviour. I smiled widely at everybody and made small talk with lots of people who I would normally scowl at or ignore. I kept saying things like, “Oh, wow, this is amazing!” in a really loud voice, and complete strangers would reply, “Yes! Isn’t is fantastic!” Their enthusiasm was dangerously contagious. At one point I picked up a straggling infant and yelled in its face, “This is amazing, isn’t it!” before re-depositing it on the ground just in time for its father not to accuse me of child molesting or kidnapping or something.


I bought an ice cream, and looked around for somebody to give it to – I found a confused old couple who must have wandered in by mistake, thinking they were getting something for free, and I thrust my cone at the wizened grandmother who was taken aback at first, probably convinced I was going to stab her or brainwash her into joining the Scientologists or something, but then she gave me such a warm smile I nearly melted, as she gratefully accepted my ice cream and said to her hubby, “See? What friendly people they have here!” It took me three seconds exactly to realize she had spoken in Portuguese, my favourite language…


I indulged in a five-minute conversation na minha língua preferida, describing the town and saying how charmed and privileged all Zaragozans were to welcome guests from all over the world. They were a delightful couple and I wanted them to adopt me there on the spot.


I got a real buzz from being pro-actively nice. I think I overdid it a bit, though, like when I flashed my best smile at some greasy official-looking guy who thought it was his lucky day and would have had his wicked way with me if I hadn’t given him the slip behind the Brazilian pavilion.


I invited a large group of Korean businessmen to my house and they politely refused, so I tried a young Scandinavian couple and they accepted far too willingly so I had to invent a quick excuse: I lived in a leper colony in Albania and needed financial help to get back home. (I’ve used this excuse quite a few times now and it rarely fails).


I spent so much time talking to people that I didn’t really take in what the Expo had to offer. There are dozens of enticing buildings that I want to go inside, and lots of those touchy-feely interactive things that tell you how to save water and protect the whales and all that stuff. I’ll be back, and concentrate less on being nice to people and more on the Expo per se.


When I got home, Heen was furious with me for giving our phone number to some Jehovah’s Witnesses, the cultural attaché of the Nigerian Embassy, a cute guy selling fluorescent headbands, a Japanese tour guide and a TV reporter from Cuba who wanted to seek political asylum so I offered to marry him.


But not even Heen’s bad mood could wipe the smile off my face. I’d had a great day.


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