Ferretería – one of my favourite Spanish words. Its means Ironmonger, but whenever I go past one I get images of a shop full of ferrets and ferret paraphernalia that makes me giggle. The ferretería that I was in yesterday with my three other gringo friends was a cornucopia of delights, despite there not being a single ferret to be seen. Row after row of shiny steel tools covered every wall, and great big metal clunking things hung from the ceiling. We had some fun trying to guess what things were – tools that manage to look both sleek and ponderous at the same time, massive chunks of worked metal and handy gadgets that make you desperately try to think of an excuse to purchase. We got a bit carried away at the sight of a huge drill – the drill bit was nearly a meter long and 3 cm in diameter. Sure, sure, there’s something a little phallic about getting excited by a massive powerful drill… but it was kinda cool.

My friend asked the guy in the shop for some callipers – our reason for going there in the first place. “Sure, sure”, he says, “I have plenty. What size do you want, I’ll get some to show you”. “Oh”, she says, “fairly big”.

My friend is a rather petite, very pretty little North American girl. Us lot hanging around in the back were a mottly assortment of gringos, drooling over the machinery on the walls and the huge phallic symbols. Casually, he asks my friend what she wants it for. “Ah”, she says. “Its a bit strange. For measuring bones”. He looks at her and laughs. “Oh, you want a calibrador!”

The guy had thought she was asking for a “caliber” – as in, a revolver. He had been about to sell us a weapon, and just wanted to know what size. More to the point, he had a whole selection ready to show her there and then, which is more than can be said for his stock of callipers (we had to go elsewhere).

Ferreterías. Strange places. They can’t sell you ferrets, and they can’t sell you callipers. But they will sell you automatic weapons.