When the bus pulled over in a pitch black residential area on the outskirts of Barcelona and the driver practically shoved us out the door, we knew for sure we had missed our stop. We had tickets on a night bus to Madrid and had decided to take a city bus to the long distance bus station, because we didn’t want to pay for taxi and getting to the station by bus seemed easy enough. It turned out to not be all that easy.
It was dark outside and for some reason the inside of the bus was lit up like your average stadium, making it very difficult to see what was outside the windows. We were paying pretty close attention, but never once during the whole ride did we see anything that even remotely resembled a bus station. We had a general idea how long it should take to get there and as we passed that mark and the minutes continued to add up, the sneaking suspicion that we had missed our stop grew stronger.
We couldn’t really see how we might have missed a whole bus station, though, so we just ignored that suspicion. Besides, the driver knew where we were going. We had asked him if he stopped at the station as we were boarding and the quick nod and rough grunt we got in reply suggested he did, so surely he would let us know if we forgot to push the button signaling our desire to get off the bus. Apparently, he didn’t let us know. And I’m pretty sure he did it on purpose.
I became sure of that when we reached the final stop. He demanded we get off his bus and did not do so nicely. I have no idea what prompted his anger, but perhaps I was mispronouncing my polite Spanish questions so they sounded like insults in his native Catalan. Who knows?
I suppose it’s possible that when I asked if we could stay on the bus for the return route, even offering to pay the fare again, I may have inadvertently stumbled on the Catalan word for “triple chin” or “lard-ass” (both accurate descriptions in his case). Whatever I said, he did not react well. When I tried asking him where we were and in which direction we should head to get back to the bus station, I must have unknowingly insulted his mother. He looked furious. Basically, he hated us for no discernible reason whatsoever and he wasn’t going to help us.
Once the bus pulled away, we realized just how far we were from pretty much anything. There were no streetlights anywhere near us, but we could see a lit-up road far off in the distance. We started walking toward it, hoping the whole time to see a taxi—we figured that was the only way we could make it to the station in time to catch our bus. There were no taxis.
By the time we made it to the lit-up road we only had about 5 minutes left before our bus was scheduled to leave. We were hoping to get a taxi quickly and if we managed that, we were hoping the bus station was close enough to get there in time. We didn’t get a taxi. And the bus station wasn’t really anywhere near us anyway.
We both have a pretty good direction sense and we agreed on where the bus station might be, so we started jogging in that general direction in the hopes that the station might miraculously be just around the corner. If you’ve read anything else on my blog, I’m sure you can imagine just how happy I was to be jogging. Luckily, we soon found ourselves on a fairly major road and we spotted a bus stop up ahead just as a bus was passing us. It was heading in the same direction we were, so we figured “why not?”
We sprinted to the stop in time to get on the bus and asked the driver if he stopped at the station. He didn’t. Since the bus was heading in the same general direction, we stayed on it anyway. Not having to jog anymore had a lot to do with that decision. After looking at the route map, we realized the bus might not stop at the station itself, but it did pass fairly close. One of the stops seemed to be only two blocks or so away. We decided this was our best bet.
We knew our bus to Madrid was long gone and the money we had paid for the tickets—not a small amount—was lost. Nevertheless, we were hoping we could get on another bus for Madrid that night, since we really needed to be there the next day.
We got off at the stop closest to the station and jogged the two or so remaining blocks. We finally arrived at the long distance bus station a good thirty minutes after our departure time. When we stepped out onto the platform, we realized we had forgotten to take into account the Spanish tendency to never be on time for anything. Our bus was still sitting there and it hadn’t even begun boarding. All the other passengers were waiting in line for something or other. We happily joined them.
Most the time, the Spanish struggle with punctuality was somewhat of an annoyance, but for once it actually worked in my favor. I still can’t quite believe that bus was sitting there. We were both certain we had missed it and were not at all happy about having to pay for another ticket and perhaps not even making it back to Madrid in time, but then we saw the bus and the line of passengers and our moods changed instantly. We also saw another angry driver, but this time his anger was directed at other passengers, specifically those who addressed him in English. My minimal knowledge of Spanish worked in my favor this time and this driver didn’t seem to speak the other guy’s version of Catalan in which all of my Spanish words apparently sound like insults to his family. Or maybe he simply agreed and didn’t like his mother either.