The Spanish Advantage

Darwin Dutchknuckles didn’t care what the head honchos in their corner offices thought. He didn’t care what his supervisor or director or executive director thought. In Darwin’s mind, he deserved to observe the sacred Spanish tradition commonly referred to as a siesta, and there was nothing anyone at Global Technology Enterprises could do to stop him.

“I hear you have an … unusual request,” said Cynthia Salami, head of human resources. Seated behind a large red oak desk, Cynthia radiated confidence from every pore in her body.

“I resent your use of the word unusual, but thank you for taking this meeting,” Darwin said. “My reason for being here is simple: I want to take a nap from two to five every afternoon. Siestas are a cultural birthright for Spaniards, and you’re spitting on my roots by denying me access to an afternoon snooze.”

“But, Mr. Dutchknuckles, what you’re asking for is a major workplace disruption. It’s a time inefficiency, counterintuitive to serving our clients in the best possible way.”

“I would argue the opposite is true, Ms. Salami. I find my request no more disruptive than when Allison in accounting gave up speaking for Lent. A three-hour nap pales in comparison to forty days of silence. And did you know industry titans like Google and Meta have dedicated nap rooms for their employees? These people sleep in hammocks! No wonder Global Tech is lagging behind.”

Cynthia intertwined her fingers, a slight smirk on her face. Tiptoeing a cultural tightrope in the American workplace was a challenge, but one she accepted. “Dutchknuckles is an unusual last name for a Spaniard, no?”

Darwin dug his heels in the dirt. “My great-grandparents on my mother’s side hailed from Spain, San Sebastian to be exact. Their last name was ‘Abarca,’ which means maker of leather shoes.” From his briefcase Darwin withdrew a crumpled piece of paper and placed it on the red oak desk. “This is a report I paid one hundred dollars for on the Internet. Do you know what it proves? It proves I’m twenty-five percent Spanish.” Darwin’s face soured. “Do you denounce science?”

“Darwin, I do not denounce—”

From his briefcase Darwin withdrew two photographs. One photo showed a shabby old cow grazing in Darwin’s backyard. The other showed an emotionless Darwin in his kitchen holding a bottle of cheap wine and a plate of grey shrimp. “As a Spanish man, I treasure Spanish traditions. My diet is mostly seafood. I drink wine with breakfast. I raise bulls behind my hacienda.”

Cynthia shuffled uncomfortably in her chair. She never got nervous, but this meeting was beginning to set her on edge. “Did any of your superiors use the word unreasonable with you?”

“They did,” Darwin replied. “But if I may be so bold—how dare them. How dare you! Are siestas any less reasonable than cigarette breaks? Did anyone bat a lash when O’Malley left the office at noon to get drunk off green beer for St. Patrick’s Day? Did anyone make a fuss when Levinson couldn’t use his phone on Yom Kippur and we lost the Horizon account? What about when Evans-Thomas took off for the royal wedding?”

“Mr. Dutchknuckles,” Cynthia said, fighting to regain control. “The bottom line is that the siesta is all but dead in Spanish business culture. In America? The idea is laughable to say the least.”

“To the turncoats and bigots, I say so sorry. I thumb my nose at those who shun our rich traditions. We’re talking about history! We’re talking about heritage and identity and the right to feel comfortable in the workplace! Have I gone back in time? Is this no longer a safe space? The bottom line, as you so succinctly stated, is that we’re staring down the barrel of a double standard, and Global Tech’s reaction feels flat footed.”

“Mr. Dutchknuckles, please calm down,” Cynthia said, voice cracking.

“Calm down? How can I calm down when you’re gutting my culture like a freshly caught carp!”

For a moment, the two sat in silence. Blinking at each other in the cold room.

“Okay … alright,” Cynthia said. She was not used to this, her back being against the wall. Her options shrinking to the size of a peanut. Almost under her breath, Cynthia said, “I’m beginning to see your point.” She looked out the window, out at the grey city below. “Do you understand the position this puts me in?”

Darwin frowned. “Do you understand what it feels like to be in an office and know, just across the Atlantic Ocean, my people sleep easy every afternoon from two to five?”

Cynthia Salami sighed heavily. She placed her cards on the table. “How about two days a week you get to take a siesta?”

“Three days a week,” Darwin said. “And Global Tech must provide me with a dark, quiet place where I can rest my bones.”

Cynthia wrapped her knuckles on the desk. “Fine,” she said. “But please keep this to yourself. I don’t want other employees seeing this as special treatment. Our corporate moral could plummet.”

Darwin was already halfway to the door. “I understand,” he said. “I’ll keep an eye open for the key to my sleeping chamber. And, if it’s all the same to you, I’ll supply my own mattress and pillows.”

Categories Fiction

Alex Dermody’s fiction has been most recently featured in Defenestration Magazine and Bewildering Stories. His published work can be found on Instagram @alexdermodywrites.

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