A comedy of errors

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, we're currently on vacation in Spain. We got here on Wednesday evening, but due to some miscommunication, we had to switch accommodations on Thursday. Today, I was supposed to meet the owner of the apartment where we were originally staying to return the keys. We had agreed to meet at 11:30 at the apartment, which would take just under 30 minutes to get to from the place we're staying now. I left at 10:45 to walk to the bus stop, and was feeling good about myself as I arrived at the stop with 10 minutes to spare before the bus was scheduled to arrive. I wasn't sure how to get a ticket, so I popped into a tobacco shop that was right by the bus stop to ask. In my "extremely limited Spanish" (a euphemism for "knowing 25 words of Spanish and saying them in semi-random order with lots of hand gestures"), I managed to establish that I could buy a ticket on the bus.

I found a shady spot next to the bus stop to wait, and saw a QR code that you could scan to get updated information on when the bus would arrive. I scanned it and saw that the bus would be there in six minutes (seis and minutos are two of the 25 words I know in Spanish), so I settled down to wait, deeply satisfied with my careful planning and linguistic expertise.

Seis minutos came and went with no sign of the bus. I started to get concerned that I had done something wrong, so I pulled my phone out of my pocket and opened Google Maps for directions. Sure enough, it indicated a bus stop 200 metres down the road. But wait a second, it wanted me to take bus 110, which also stopped where I was waiting, and it had definitely told me this stop before. "Oh well," I thought to myself, "Larry and Sergey are never wrong, right?" and set off down the road in the indicated direction. As I was waiting for the pedestrian light to go green so I could cross a side road, I happened to look over my shoulder and see the 110 bus approaching the bus stop I had just left. I turned on my heel in the hot Spanish sun (it's "only" 30 degrees today, but that's well above what I'm used to in Stockholm) and ran for it, waving my hand in what I hoped was the universal "please wait for me so I can get on your bus" gesture.

The bus driver was kind enough to wait for me to run up, panting and sweat streaming off my face, and get on. I produced my phone to pay for the ticket, but it turned out that the touchless thingy was only for bus passes, and you couldn't pay with a card. No matter, I had anticipated this situation by withdrawing some "cash" (a bit of gaudy paper that people use to pay for stuff, I'm told) from an "ATM" (a machine that charges you real money in exchange for these bits of paper), so I withdrew a 20 euro bill from my pocket and held it aloft triumphantly. The bus driver looked at me with a raised eyebrow, then waved a finger in the universal "fuck off with that 20 euro bill" gesture. Apparently he could only make change for a tenner.

Defeated, I slunk off the bus and started walking in the right direction, thinking I'd pass a little shop where I could buy a bottle of water or something and obtain one of these highly sought after 10 euro bills. I had made it about 100 metres down the road when something dawned on me: I was meeting a person to return the keys to an apartment, and I wasn't currently in possession of these keys. They were, in fact, safely ensconced in my backpack, which was safely ensconced in our new place, which was a 15 minute walk from where I currently was. Oh yeah, and my wife had the keys to that place, and she was at the pool with my son. I performed an honest to goodness facepalm, turned on my heel for the second time, and started walking back to the hotel.

I pulled my phone out to call my wife and admit to my failings, and I saw that I had a message from the person I was supposed to meet. "I ran into some traffic," the message said, "and I won't be there until 12:00. Sorry for the inconvenience!" I honestly-to-goodnessly lol'd, and let out a huge sigh of relief. "No worries," I texted back, "I'll see you there." I gave my wife a call to let her know the deal, then walked back up to the apartment. And by "up", I really mean it. One of the reasons that the Costa del Sol is so beautiful is that it basically goes lovely blue sea, steep-ass hills, dramatic mountains. There's not a whole lot of flat land on offer.

So I hiked a kilometre or so up one of these steep-ass hills to our hotel, met my wife at the pool to get the key to our room, recovered the apartment keys from my backpack, dropped the hotel keys back off with my wife, and cruised a kilometre or so down the steep-ass hill back to the bus stop. Google Maps reported that the next bus was in 15 minutes. I checked my watch, which showed the time as 11:40. "Ugh," I thought, "I won't make it there by 12:00, since the bus takes 10 minutes and then it's another 10 up another steep-ass hill (see? toldya they're not exactly in short supply around here) to the apartment."

I pulled out my phone to text the person, and saw that they had preempted me. "Still in traffic, will be there around 12:15". "No worries," I texted back, "I missed the bus,"--dropping an itsy bitsy modification of the truth to cover for my complete incompetence vis a vis forgetting the keys--"so I'm running late myself. See you soon!"

At this point, I should reveal that the person I was corresponding with didn't speak English, so all of these texts were happening in Google Translate-assisted Spanish, so I just had to trust Larry and Sergey that I was saying what I hoped I was saying.

Just for shits and giggles, I scanned the QR code at the bus stop to check the updated arrival time for the bus. It turned out that the bus was running really late, and the previously scheduled bus hadn't arrived yet, but was due imminently. Finally! A bit of luck breaking my way for once!

The bus rolled up in a minute or so and opened its doors to admit a few angry passengers who had been waiting for awhile in the hot sun and one delighted passenger who though he'd have to wait awhile in the hot sun. The driver was able to make change for my 10 euro bill, and I sat down in the sweet sweet air conditioned comfort of the bus and started watching the display to make sure I didn't miss my stop. I got off in the right place and walked rapidly up yet another steep-ass hill to meet the person. After handing over the keys, I decided I'd just walk back to our hotel, since it was only 45 minutes or so away on foot, and the whole journey (save walking down one steep-ass hill and up another) was along the seaside.

I'm happy to report that my walk home was without further incident. It was hot, but the beautiful views made it all worth my while.

A rocky promontory extends into the blue Mediterranean Sea

Discuss this post here.

Published: 2022-07-23

Tagged: stories