To me, the ultimate feeling of freedom comes from driving a car out in the open, especially in a foreign country when you are on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. I love the way it feels; taking control of your life with your hands on the steering wheel and singing at the top of your lungs until your voice cracks, until the point of coughing up a fur ball.
With this in mind, I had booked a hire car to drive the seven or so hours from Murcia to the southern coast of Spain. What I hadn’t anticipated was a blog post unfolding at the time.
I checked out of the hotel early-ish as requested by the writing on the wall and to allow myself some good stops along the way en route to Conil. I had successfully ordered a taxi to take me to the car hire company, back at the airport. The driver heaved The Beast into the boot and then clicked his seatbelt across into the passenger’s side buckle. This time, there was only one meter running and the charge was 4 euros cheaper than the night before.
Inside the aeropuerto, The Beast and I went in search of my hire car company. There were two kiosks lined up, but none had the blue logo that I was looking for. So I went to the Information stand, where a seemingly bored woman looked up at me as I interrupted her vague perusing of papers. Miss-Information told me that this particular car hire company has their office off-site and that you had wait outside Arrivals for them.
I went out to have a look but there was no one there, so I came back in. Miss-Information suggested that I call the company from the payphone. I pulled out my print-out and went over to where she’d nodded toward the phone. I wasn’t so good with the instructions, where my money was chewed but not spat out. So I went to reenlist the help of Miss-Information.
She left her booth and I followed her back to the hungry telephone. She dialled the number, put her hand out for phone fodder and then gave the handset to me. Dawdling off in aimless circles, I was left to deal with a Spanish speaking message. I caught her attention and she came back, listening to the automated answer and then hanging up.
“It’s an answer message. They might not be open yet.”
I went and sat down and wondered what the heck I was supposed to do? I read my print out, with a slight quiver in my inhale. 10:30am was the time that read with ‘pick up’. I looked up at the clock, it was just after 9. I had an intermittent internet connection; with a good friend chatting me to calmness while I chewed on an over-priced bland as balls muffin, rinsing it down with a hot cup of coffee, until my net ran out.
At 10:30 I double checked with Miss-Information about the waiting place. She was busy helping someone else, but reassured me with the ‘outside Arrivals’ response. The Beast and I stood under the warm canopy shade. I watched the cars coming and going with the hola’s and adios’s shared. After ten minutes, I released the backpack from my shoulders. After half an hour, I decided to go back inside.
On my way to Miss-Information, I detoured and decided to give the starving phone another chance, with my last euro coin. I actually got through! I got through to the car company! They’d been awaiting confirmation of my arrival. It was a classic case of lost in online translation. When I’d booked there was a box to type in my flight number, but since I was not coming from a flight, I had ticked the time and entered that section as ‘not applicable’. The system didn’t like that and had scolded me with clueless waiting. She explained, I explained, she apologised, I reassured her that it was ok. In these kinds of situations you have three choices; to laugh, to cry, or to get mad. I chose the first one. She’d be there in five minutes.
Fifteen and a lot of scrutinising cars later, a woman got out of an unmarked vehicle, opened the boot, and then pulled out a clipboard with a freshly printed piece of paper with my name on it. She had barely raised it when I had come to greet her. More apologies and more ‘don’t worries’ were shared.
She drove us in the direction that I had come from, two and a half hours before, parking about 50 metres from where I had stayed the night. I tried not to fall out of the car, mangled in mirth; the start of my ‘freedom’ had been just a short stroll away.
I signed the papers for Clio and some Scots handed me their extra water bottles, as they were leaving back to the cold. I was ready and on my way, but not before taking a wrong turn. “Take a right…..” does not mean turning left, NJ…
I’ll fill you in on my drive through Spain in my next blog; complete with awkward toilet stops and screwing up a supermarket checkout.
Ps. I totally botched up this blog. This is the resurrection of a piece that I swear I had pressed ‘save’ for. I quietly mourned the loss of some damn fine sentences that I had constructed and were lost. Ah well, you can either laugh or cry. I still choose to laugh. x