And now, a story.
The backdrop is that I have now safely arrived in Belgium which is where I will call home for the next three weeks. My very early flight this morning from Barcelona to Brussels required that I spend last night at a Barcelona airport hotel, coincidentally called the Barcelona Airport Hotel, rather than the comfort of my apartment in Girona 90 minutes north. Fair enough, I was up for the adventure and trekked down to Barcelona after spending the morning and mid-day in home-sweet-Girona.
Municipal travel (buses, trains, and automobiles) saw me arrive to the Barcelona airport. From there, surely it would be simple to finish the final leg of the journey to the comfort of my airport hotel very close by. I called the hotel to inquire about a shuttle service at which point I am told it will be a 20 minute wait. Our conversation begins here with Act I:
Me: “20 minutes? Hmm, I see here on a map that it’s only a kilometer away. Can I just walk there?”
(A small chuckle of laughter emanates from the phone.)
Hotel man: “No sir, you may not walk to the hotel.”
Me: “You’re certain? I’m young and fit. I’m sure I can make it.”
Hotel man: “No sir, the shuttle will be there in ten minutes.”
Weird, I think. Over the course of our fifteen second conversation, the time has been cut in half.
I proceed to wait ten minutes. Then 20 minutes. Miffed and getting chilly, it’s time to call the hotel.
Me: “So the shuttle says Barcelona Airport Hotel on the side, correct? Have I missed it somehow? I’ve been here for twenty minutes.”
Hotel man: “Yes sir, it says Barcelona Airport Hotel. It will be right there. You have not missed it.”
I proceed to wait some more, so that well beyond a half hour has passed since I originally summoned the shuttle. I’m less than thrilled by this situation. I then backtrack across the entire outside walkway of the terminal to the queue of taxis and take a cab to the hotel. Admittedly, it was a busy road – one might even call it a highway – but I’m sure I could have walked there since it was maybe 1.5 kilometers. Max.
Me, hopping out of the cab: “How much?”
Taxi man: “20 Euros, por favor.”
Me: “What the crap?! That wasn’t even two kilometers!”
Taxi man: “Minimum charge sir: 20 Euros.” (He points to sign on the side of the taxi. Sure as shootin’, 20 Euro minimum.)
Me: Angry face.
The perfect irony is that there were a bunch of people waiting at the shuttle pick-up area back at the airport for various hotels. No sooner had I walked into the lobby of the hotel, in arrives two of my co-shuttle-waiting comrades.
— Intermission —
Act II begins as I wrap up checking into my hotel room.
Me: “I have a very early flight tomorrow morning. What is the shuttle situation at 5:30am?”
Hotel man… who’s voice I recognize from the phone and whom I have generously not berated for making me wait 40 minutes for a mysteriously tardy shuttle: “Yes sir, at that hour, you just come to the lobby and they will take you directly to the airport.”
Me: “Outstanding. Goodnight.”
I arrive to the lobby at 5:30am greeted by a new hotel man.
Me, in an impressively perky mood for being uncaffeinated at 5:30am: “Hello there. The shuttle please!”
New hotel man: “Good morning sir. The next shuttle is in 15 minutes.”
Me, in an immediately very cranky mood: “What the…?! I thought it was… whatever. There was some misunderstanding. Okay, I am in a rush. Can you please call a taxi?”
Hotel man: “Certainly. The taxi will arrive in five minutes.”
Exactly thirteen and a half minutes pass before, the taxi arrives.
Me: “Please drive very quickly. I need to be at the airport ten minutes ago!”
We exchange some Spanish small talk for a bit and he says something urgently about tres minutos. I think he’s telling me that I have three minutes to make my flight! Until he laughs at my uneasiness and I then deduce he means it’ll take just three minutes to get to the airport. Five minutes later, we arrive and I proceed to hurriedly pay. Magically the fee is only 11.40 Euros, not the arbitrary 20 from last night. I only have a 50 Euro bill because that’s all stupid Euro ATMs dispense. Curiously, no one in Spanish commerce will make change for a 50 Euro bill without making it painfully obvious how much of an inconvenient it is. (Fact.) He roots around in his adorable little change purse and then…
Taxi man: “Lo siento. I don’t have change at this early hour.”
I would normally blow a gasket right now, but it’s time to board the plane. Not to mention check-in, hang out in security, consume some coffee, and collect my breathe after sprinting through an airport, and then board the plane.
Through some small miracle, I made my flight. I also got change as if it were a 20 Euro taxi ride. In summary of my two taxi rides consisted of: three kilometers, 40 Euros, nearly an hour of waiting, and years taken off of my life because of undue stress. Not entirely sure why the Spanish economy is in the toilet; I’m doing my part to revive it.