I’m woken up by loud screams and knocking at 7am, and I instinctively sit up. You see, there are three things that will always awake you from any slumber: loud screams, a gun click, and the guttural reflex of a dog about to throw up. Really, they should make alarm clocks that sound like any of these. Guaranteed to get you out of bed in 2 seconds flat!
So… I sit up, but quickly realize I’m on vacation, in Spain, and after a quick glance to my left, I go back to sleep. Why? The simple answer is that if I’m overseas and Alba’s next to me, zero is the amount of people in my life that I can be of service from 10.000 kilometers away. But the more nuanced answer is that before 9am *nothing* happens in Spain. I know, I once ventured to get a coffee at 8 and the coffee shops were closed. I secretly think that the streets themselves are rolled out at 6am (by foreigners no doubt), but I don’t know, I’ve never checked.
The first time I came to ride bikes in Catalonia was 2013, and my insistence to the bike shop owner on riding at 7 was met by “there is only one 7 on my schedule and that’s PM, so unless you want to ride your bike with me to the bar then, I’m unavailable”. Got it! You see, even Amazon delivery estimates in Spain say “guaranteed delivery before 10pm”, because everyone knows that at 9:30pm, everyone who’s at home, is sitting at the dinner table, thus available for deliveries by the time the second course rolls around. At 7am, nothing but crickets.
So that is why, I instinctively knew that the person on the other side of the knocking was either drunk, lost, or American (or all three). The problem is that the screaming became louder and the cursing became more creative, and in my sleepy stupor I could tell the words came out in English. Interesting! And sure enough, it was someone with a muffled English accent imploring that he be let in, as he most assuredly lived on this block. Knowing there are 3 other families that live in this complex (who were also ignoring all requests), I went back to sleep thinking, someone else’s problem.
But little by little the neighbors wake up, and there were some patient words exchanged explaining that “no sir, you must be mistaken, there are only Catalans sleeping here, and you are clearly neither”. Catalans as a general rule (ok, stereotype) are reserved and slow to anger, so it was all very civilized. The neighbors took turns responding through their door buzzers, patiently timing their responses, until I hear an exasperated “you fucking Spanish cunt” from the street side. At this point, I’m sitting wide awake and my first thought is “should I call the cops or get some popcorn, cause this is about to get *very* interesting”.
You see, there are three things that are infinitely offensive to a Catalan and those are, in no particular order: (1) being called Spanish, (2) anything remotely offensive to women (3) any hints that tomato smeared on bread is not a fine delicacy. This man is batting 2 out of 3. If he mentions anything about tomatoes, I’ll be witness to the first Catalan lynching since Els Segadors wielded their scythes in 1640. So… I’m like “honey, where do you keep the popcorn?”…
In about 3 seconds flat I hear “sir, I’m gonna call the cops”. To which I hear “you go right ahead, they’ll just open the door for me.” I covered my mouth to keep from bursting out… At this point I think the only thing I can contribute besides inappropriate humor, is the advantage of a thinly veiled American accent (that is, unless I open the door and he sees a Puertorican hick– here conveniently confused with a “Moroccan hick”). So I decided to try my luck and wield the buzzer in power: “sir, this is a family complex, everyone but me is family, and I can assure you, you do not live here. What seems to be the problem?” Without missing a beat he responds “Oh, Canadian? Thank God! I’m Irish.” If there’s something I’ve learned while traveling is that a quiet polite American accent is always confused with Canadian, because “I hate Canadians” said no one, E-V-E-R! So it’s a good quirk to appropriate while traveling. (Note that no jokes were made about Irish being drunk at 7am. I’m trying, and probably failing, at being culturally sensitive.)
There’s a lot of back and forth where he explains that he just rented an Airbnb, and that one drink led to 500, and all the cobblestones look alike, and that he’s cold and just wants to sleep. I can definitely relate to that (the cobblestones not the 500 ;-)). Just like Hadji and most non-natives think all houses in Puerto Rico look alike, I think all medieval churches and towns are mild replicas of each other, so I can totally see myself in a similar situation. “Sir, what street number are you looking for?” “Ughh, 43”. “Err, this is 34”. Total silence… followed by hurried steps echoing on the cobblestones.
Awwww, the joys of traveling!