Random stories have a habit of finding me. I’m not sure what that’s about. It’s like they are my shadow, waiting to appear when the sun’s out. You can’t escape the shadow; unless it clouds over, you hide in the shade, or it’s dark. But I always seem to be walking around in places where I need to put my sunglasses on. Spain was no different. I wasn’t immune to any NJisms there.
At Murica Airport (pron. Moy-thee-ah), which is actually in San Javier and quite far away from Murcia city, I’d exited the plane with two new friends; a mother and daughter who were going on holiday. The daughter had just secured another broadcasting job for an emerging radio station and also buried her head when I did, during the turbulence. The mother shared stories about her life. If we hadn’t had been in a row, I could’ve pictured us sitting around a dinner table with large lip gloss stained glasses of sauvignon blanc. From the tarmac in the promising warmth of the Spanish sunset, we passed some bronzed passengers pressed up against the gate, awaiting their turn to get on board.
A stern immigration man flicked through my passport, and then flicked through it again; searching each page like an old school Rolodex. My heart pleaded that he was finding what he was looking for… or that he wasn’t; whichever served in my best interest. After the third read through, he raised one eye a smidge.
“How long are you in Spain for?”
“A month”, I replied, just to be on the safe side. I actually had no idea. It would be somewhere within the three months of my tourist visa requirement.
He leafed through again leaving his thumb print on each page, marking his territory, like a dog pissing on a fence. And then he handed it back to me.
“Thank you.” I said.
I’ve come to feel like immigration officers are one of those tough lessons in life. Detached from humanness; each time I am given my passport and allowed through the gate, is each time I’ve passed a test. I’m going to be a champion by the end of this, I swear. A country entering, border crossing, immigration officer survivor champion!
It was getting dark and even though the hotel that I’d booked was 2 kms away, it was too far to walk aimlessly with The Beast and a backpack. So I had allowed myself to grab a taxi.
I used one of the five Spanish words that is in my repertoire. Nervous about speaking, I’d forgotten to use ‘hola’ and ‘adios’. Amigo and Feliz Navidad weren’t appropriate, but I did throw in a sly ‘grass-ee-us’… Which I later learned should really be pronounced ‘grah-thee-us’.
From the address I’d provided to the young cabbie, he didn’t know where to go, so he asked another lady. Sitting in the back seat, I’d noticed the taxi meter had one part running until a button was pressed and another price appeared above it. The top one was around 4 euro. In my head I’d hoped that was the sum of the whole trip. At the end of the 2 k’s, they were totalled together and I was charged 12 euro.
I double u tee effed in my head, but couldn’t hit him up about the cost with a ‘Feliz Navidad, amigo!’ His English calibre stretched to minimal.
The street appeared deserted apart from a door that looked semi open with some old women sitting around outside in a circle, on some old dining chairs, chewing the fat. They were the guard posts of my bed for the night, as the hotel name appeared just above their heads. Seeing The Beast, one woman stood and I followed her through the restaurant with chairs stacked on tables. I thought the Spanish ate late?
She didn’t speak any English, but verbally went through the rules and then pointed to an ecru piece of paper taped to the wall, with the English version in a faded Times New Roman. I nodded when I understood and paid for my night, as requested. I was then gestured to put my key on the communal hook if I left the building. I nodded, but wasn’t really comfortable with that.
I was escorted to my room up the spiralled stairs. A cosy wee thing with a big bed and one massive pillow flopped across the top. She gave me instructions for the TV. I asked for the whyfye code, pulling out my phone. In the settings, she helped me press the keys to the weefee code. I kept trying and trying, but it wouldn’t connect. I was confused and so was she, until I worked out that all of the letters were supposed to be in upper case. She’d told me that, I just didn’t know.
I did a quick bed bug check and went back downstairs, in search of food. The proprietor was sitting outside with her cronies and I pulled out some stunning charades moves, to ask where I could get something to eat. She pointed down the road and around the corner.
I walked fast because I was on my own in the dark, in a place that I didn’t know. The corner wasn’t far, and from there, there were a couple of people peppered about. Some were packing up their market stalls, others were young children playing and I wondered why they were still awake and not tucked up in bed. The only place open was an ice cream shop, where I bought a two scooper and a day old chocolate pastry. Dinner was served but I took it back to my room, picked up my key, waded my way up the stairs through the cronies, and then devoured my gourmet dessert for dinner on my bed.
There were a couple of things about my room. It didn’t lock from the inside, but there was a lock and key on the inside of the bathroom door. Also, my window wanted to close but it couldn’t, so it wouldn’t lock. I propped a table and The Beast up against the door and my plan was to ninja roll into the bathroom and lock myself in, if anything did happen.
Nothing did happen except me trying to watch Spanish TV. I fell asleep simultaneously cursing and enjoying my single big pillow.
The following day was the start of a new adventure and my driving debut in Espana. Before I get into the nitty gritty of my new Spanish life, I’ll give you the low down on another ridiculous ‘this only happens to NJ’ anecdote, on how I totally screwed up on my car hire pick-up.