Watch the video and answer the questions below.
BBC Travel Shorts, Ep1: Barcelona from Dacapo on Vimeo.
1 What was the relationship between the protagonist and Kate, his wife, at the time this story happened?
2 What time of the year was it?
3 Why did Kate want to buy a couple of these marionettes?
4 How did the marionettes work, according to the vendor?
5 What did the protagonist shout when he noticed how the marionettes really worked?
6 What did Kate do after the commotion?
There's a great museum in Barcelona devoted to Pablo Picasso, a Museo Picasso, and Kate, my wife, although she was my girlfriend at the time, and I had just walked out of that museum and noticed a crowd of people standing around watching a street vendor. And we moved closer, as if pulled in by some kind of tourist tractor beam.
What the guy was selling were these dancing cardboard cut-outs. They were in the image of Disney characters and other cartoons, and each cut-out had two legs made of coloured yarn and little black magnets for feet. And they were dancing to the tune of the beat coming out of his cassette boombox. They were cute, these little cardboard Bart Simpsons and Pokemons, bopping back and forth and he demonstrated them - when he stopped the music, they stopped dancing. When he started the music, they started again.
It was right before Christmas. He was making a killing with these magical copyright-flaunting stocking-stuffers. The people in the semicircle around him were thrusting money at the guy.
"Homer Simpson, por favor!"
"Yo quiero SpongeBob SquarePants!"
But when Kate reached for her wallet to get a couple of them for her brother, I told her to hold on. But how did they work? I asked her. How could cardboard with string legs dance? She shrugged. Not interested.
The vendor didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak Spanish but that didn’t stop me from asking him how they worked and he picked one of his little miracle marionettes up and showed us the back of it. There was a little plastic hook. “Vibration”, he said.
“Vibrations”, Kate repeated, and at a tone that marked my ignorance of basic physics. “It’s science”, she said, and then she went back to her wallet.
Well, that makes no sense. Vibrations? My eyebrows furrowed and I crossed my arms like a cross between Indiana Jones and a Jedi, which is how I like to think of myself. Then I squatted down and squinted at the cardboard cartoons as they jerked on their little string legs to the beat of the music. And suddenly, I was staring at the guy's legs, so I looked up.
"No, no, no, no!", he shouted at me. He waved his finger in my face. That's when I knew something was rotten in Denmark. I might have given up if he hadn't done that, but it was the glove slap across the cheek, the gauntlet thrown down - I now had to prove it was a scam.
He walked off to go help an eager buyer throwing cash at him, and I gingerly stepped to the edge of the semicircle of people. And I put my head so close to the wall that I could see behind the dancing Disneys - and behind his boombox. Behind the boombox, a little plastic stick moved back and forth. And from the end of the stick I followed a nearly invisible line of fishing wire to where it attached to the wall. Lisa Simpson and SpongeBob were hanging on the wire, the stick moved to the beat of the music. It was as ingenious as it was fraudulent.
I stood up and shouted above the music and the tourists and announced, "It's a scam!” "They're dancing on fishing wire, it's a scam!" The crowd froze in place, except for the motion of reinserting euros back into their wallets, and the scammer angrily stopped the music and threw his tiny dancers to the ground in a huff. He angrily stared at me as I walked across his little stage area, smugly smiling back at him and into the crowd.
No-one thanked me, but that didn't hurt. What hurt was that when I looked around for Kate and that look of admiration I expected on her face, she had gone. She ran off. When I later caught up to her, she told me that the scam artist was so angry that she thought he was going to hit me or attack me or something, so instinct told her to run.
"Let the Wookiee win," that's her philosophy.