So when I’m going someplace, one of three things is usually true:
1) I’m traveling by myself and know exactly where I’m going.
2) I’m not going anywhere in particular, and don’t really care to.
3) I’m with someone else and have made them completely responsible for knowing where we are.
I have a hard time with uncertainty. And that’s why, a few years ago, it took a very special set of circumstances to make me ask a stranger for directions.
I was in Spain, and a friend of mine had met me there. I was staying with some other friends at the time, and these other friends had a summer home they weren’t using, right on the border with Portugal. So me and my American friend decided to stay in the unused house, cross the border for a day to visit Porto, and then head back to Santiago to catch a plane to Madrid the day after that.
So the first leg of the journey went fine. We got a ride to the border village, walked to the summer home, spent the night, took a ferry to Portugal, and a train to Porto. The return journey was going to be a little more complicated, but luckily this fell squarely within my first major travel mode: I knew exactly how to get back to Santiago:
After staying the night in Porto we needed to take a train to the border, grab the ferry across, walk back to the summer home to get some stuff we left behind, take a bus downtown, transfer to another bus to Vigo, then get a train from Vigo to Santiago. The journey would take us all day, but I didn’t see another option.
So we get the train to the ferry just fine, and start walking back to the house to get our stuff. This is when things stop being fine. First the cops spot us, and decide to search us for no better reason than that they don’t recognize us. At this time in my life I had about sixteen pockets stuffed full of notebooks, pens, cooking implements and snacks at all times, so that took a while. By the time we got to the house and got our stuff, we were barely able to catch the last bus going into town. And by the time we got into town, there were no more buses going to Vigo.
“Great,” you’re thinking, “Stay an extra night in the summer cottage and go tomorrow.” But see, we’d already booked non-refundable tickets to Madrid for the next morning, and Ryanair is very unforgiving about that sort of thing. So for those keeping track at home, I now no longer knew exactly where I was going (so much for option 1), I very much cared about getting someplace (forget about option 2), and my friend had no idea where we were either, plus didn’t speak a word of Spanish (option 3? Nope.)
This left me with option 4: CRISIS MODE.
There was a medical bus idling outside the bus station. I got on.
“Are you going to Vigo?” I asked the driver.
“Yes,” said the driver, “But this is a hospital bus. We only take patients.”
“Doesn’t look like you have any patients,” I said, “Plenty of space.”
I must have looked optimally desperate at that moment, because he agreed to let us ride along. If we waited another hour for them to get done in town. Hooray! Problem solved!
See, we got to Vigo so late, all the trains were about to stop running. In an effort to get across the city in time, I stopped every random passer-by I could find, desperately begging for directions or a lift or anything. As disappointments mounted, and it became clear that we weren’t going to make the train, my friend noticed that I seemed to be saying “Oh dear” a lot. The truth is that “Oh dear” in English sounds a lot like “Fuck” in Spanish. “Fucked” is what we were.
We could have taken a cab at this point, if we had been willing to fork over the entire GDP of Lithuania, but I am a stubborn and frugal bastard, and so instead we picked a likely looking intersection and settled down to hitch-hike. We had our bags, we had a bunch of horrifying strawberry-flavored marshmallows, and we had very little time to waste. Car after car passed us by, until finally a sports car skidded to a stop in front of us, and a very stylish couple looked over their sunglasses at us.
“What are you doing?” asked the guy behind the wheel?
“Hitchhiking.” I said.
“Get in,” he said. “I’ll take you to a better spot to hitch.”
This wasn’t exactly the ride I was hoping for, but we’d been out there for a while and it was better than nothing, so we stuffed our backpacks into the tiny trunk and hopped in. We sped around the city for a while in a totally unnecessary series of spirals before finally ending up in front of a dance club.
“Go in there,” said the driver, “tell people you’re looking for a ride to Santiago. Someone will take you.”
“What?” I said, “I’m not sure that’s going to work.”
“Look, I wish I could take you,” said the driver, “But it’s a long way and this is where we’re going.”
I let out an extremely passive-aggressive sigh.
“Okay,” I said, and trudged around to get our bags out of the trunk. While I struggled with my backpack, the couple in the front seat exchanged a rapid series of hushed remarks. The woman in the passenger seat seemed to be berating the driver, and it appeared to be getting to him. As I lugged my bag up onto the curb, I heard him say,
“Wait! …We’ll take you to Santiago. We can go clubbing there. Let’s go.”
Now, you have to understand that this is about a 70 mile drive we’re talking about here. For a long-haul trucker that would be nothing, but just to party? These people had to be insane.
Turns out, yeah, they were. As soon as we got onto the highway, he started doing a hundred, then turned around to ask me what kind of music I liked. I was terrified, exhausted, and overcome with our sudden luck. All I could think to say was the name of a band one of my German hosts had introduced me to.
“You got it.”
So now we’re flying along the highway at a minimum of 100 mph, listening to this shit while the driver repeatedly turns all the way around to leer at us in the backseat and ask,
“Are you scared?”
Twelve seconds later, we’re in Santiago. These two angels drop us off, wish us luck, and zip off to go explore the local club scene. We walked the rest of the way to our friends’ pad and arrived at the airport in plenty of time to catch our flight the next morning. At which point we were informed that the cost of our tickets had been effectively doubled because we forgot to check in on line.
The moral of the story is
fuck plane reservations.
We encourage you to come share your stories of Moving On at the live show! If you post a story about moving on in the comments here, you get into the show for free.
A Month Of
Stage 773 1225 W. Belmont
Wed Oct 8th 7:30-10:00
$10 free with a posted story or shared dish