Friday, July 10, 2009

Is that man naked?

You know how when you live somewhere you never really go to the touristy parts of your own location? It took me two years of living here in Madrid before I finally entered the Prado. I still haven’t taken the Royal Palace tour. For a long time Wendy has wanted to play tourist and visit a bunch of the little towns that make up Spain. Due to a confluence of unexpected circumstances, that turned out to be our July. We took a fifty Euro flight to Valencia, drove down to Denia and spent a long weekend there, relaxing on the beach and eating some fine, fine seafood. We rented a car and drove down to Extremadura to look at the Roman ruins, watch a play, eat some fine Jamon and explore a monastery.

“Pull over! Pull over right now!”

After nearly a thousand kilometers the trip ended on the Gran Via a mere twenty yards from the Avis garage where we would return the car. Two hopped up motorcycle cops (actually, they use scooters; so intimidating!) were flashing blue lights alongside the car and yelling so much I thought I must have hit a toddler crossing the street and it was stuck in the grill.

Wendy leans over to speak with them through my window.

They are very excited. Wendy is talking very fast but is conciliatory. I understand enough to know she is saying it is totally our fault and she is sorry and yes, she heard the woman behind us honking but the woman had been honking at the light, honking at the turn, honking at the straightaway… She probably honks at the drive through to McDonalds. So, her honking meant nothing to us except that she is an impatient bitch. As the yelling around me continues I decide it is time for a mental checklist :

1. Expired driver’s license that looks nothing like me. Check.
2. Not supposed to be driving the car, it’s in Wendy’s name. Check.
3. Passport that shows I am long past my allotted time to stay here, hence, an illegal alien. Check.

“Do you see that sign over there?” pointing over his shoulder at a small disk of metal perched on top of the stop light.

“I can see the back of it; which has no writing on it.”

“There’s no turning left anywhere on the Gran Via. You should have circled around and turned right or taken a side street that points you directly into the garage.”

“I’m so sorry, it’s totally our fault, we just didn’t know.”

The cop pauses for a minute to look at me. “How come you’re talking? How come he isn’t talking?”

“You’re speaking too fast for him to understand.”

“Did he see that sign? Because that sign shows you can only go straight.”

“We were being very careful, we were both looking for signs…”

“Why were you looking for signs? He should be looking for signs.”

Okay, what? In a city we never drive in and don’t know all the traffic rules she should be reading or playing a game on her iPhone rather than both of us do our best to do the right thing?

“Turning left on the Gran Via is a very serious offense. Since you’re a foreigner I am going to have to give you a two hundred Euro ticket.”

“Since I’m a foreigner you have to give me a ticket?”

(Yes, this conversation actually happened.)

And now, since Wendy is being very nice and apologetic, they start to cool off. They tell Wendy that she should know about how traffic works on the Gran Via, and needs to be more careful. Then he changes his mind about the ticket. “Well, actually, two hundred Euros is a lot of money.”
“Yes it is, but we’ll pay it because we were wrong and we’re sorry.”

“Where are you going in the city?”

“To that garage you can see right there with the Avis sign on it. We’re parking the car and then walking.”

“Well, we’ll let you off with a warning, and well, be more careful and have a nice day.”

And they drive off on their fierce little scooters.

Wendy explains to me the parts I missed.

“Well, all in all, that went well,” I say to Wendy.

“I think that they were expecting a typical Spanish screaming match. When I didn’t give them one they didn’t quite know how to react at first then eventually realized they didn’t need to be so aggressive and the adrenaline wore off.”

We park the car, leave the garage and return to the scene of the crime. I try to find the sign Wendy tells me was the cause of all that drama. “That sign? The little blue one, high above the street with the little arrow pointing straight ahead? The one mixed in with the billboards, the stoplight, the paintings on the road, the flashing neon of the restaurants all around us? That’s supposed to tell us there are no left turns on this road?”

“Apparently so.”

“Good thing they so aggressively yelled at us to pull over, cut off other drivers, forced me to almost run over pedestrians in the crosswalk so they could tell us that. Good Lord.”

“Yeah, that was pretty insane. But do you know how lucky we are?

Thinking back to my mental checklist and then add on the top of that we don’t have to pay a two hundred dollar fine I nod my head. “Very lucky.”

That was just a side anecdote. What I really wanted to tell you about was our trip to San Sebastian. But then I thought, “I need to amuse people first.”

“Is that man naked or wearing a thong?”

He rolls over.


“And that would be naked.”

There is an old naked man baking in the sun on the beach in San Sebastian.

I’ll explain all about San Sebastian next. Hopefully by the end of today. This is just a teaser because I haven’t posted anything in a week and I wanted you to be entertained this morning.