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.
Daniel, if you haven;t discovered it yet, Madrid’s stations are a fair ways apart. You come into one and have to Metro to another to buy tickets and depart. My latest post tells you the Metro for the departure station. Seems like the larger Spanish cities have funny set ups for the bus stations.
Graefyl recently contributed to world literature by posting..An unplanned day in Madrid
Daniel McBane says
Yes, I definitely remember that. Luckily the only one I ever used was only a few train stops from my apartment. To me that was one of the big differences between Madrid and Barcelona: Madrid has a pretty good public transport system; Bercelona’s is decent, but nothing special.
Daniel McBane recently contributed to world literature by posting..Tal to Chame: Falling into a Trekking Routine
Hi Daniel, sorry to hear about BCN buses experience. I’m from Madrid but lived in BCN for three years. The first time me and my friend arrived there by bus from Madrid we walked al the way to Hospitalet (which is where the bus left You) thinking we were heading to Las Ramblas, and when we realized had to walked all the way back plus the way to the City centre (and no one seemed friendly engough to ask) Sometimes is hard in a new City, i get that. But what you said about punctuality is unfair because we might seem careless but everything is Well organized in Spain, in general. I’ve been travelling Spain by bus and trains so many times and never ever had problems, kind of the opposite but maybe was just me. Thanks and hope were different in Madrid. Ana
Daniel McBane says
Sounds like you did a lot more walking than we did.
My experience in Spain was a bit different than yours, it seems. To be fair, the trains were mostly on time and Madrid’s subway system is excellent (and cheap!), but none of the buses I took were ever on time, although the delays were mostly just minor. In my experience (and this is a generalization, of course), Spaniards were much more punctual than any culture in Asia (apart from Japan), but much less so when compared to most of northern Europe, but that’s really just part of the culture and everyone, myself included, just accepts it.
The only time this really annoyed me was in trying to get a work permit; it took eight months just to get the appointment. In the end, I left Spain before ever having the official paperwork to work in the country (I did have a receipt that proved I was attempting to get a permit, in case I was ever questioned by immigration).
Daniel McBane recently contributed to world literature by posting..Hurry Up and Eat Your Squid Before it Dies!
The driver must have hated his job, and he’s just letting you know. I encounter a lot of drivers like that, but not in Barcelona. I’ve only been to Barcelona once, and didn’t experience any major problems.. well my friend can speak good Spanish, but it was his first as well in Spain, and he was so happy that finally he was able to practice it to a Spanish-speaking country. I hope that this transportation flaw didn’t ruin your over-all experience in Barcelona,. it’s one of the nicest cities I’ve visited. Take care.
by the way, you kinda look like my brother. I think you have the same smile. 🙂
Daniel McBane says
I think he was probably just having a bad day, too. This incident didn’t have any affect on my overall impression of Barcelona, though. It was my second time in the city and I already wasn’t very fond of the place. I’ve found that there are some cities I instantly like and others I instantly dislike; Barcelona was one of the latter. I don’t know why, but from the very first day, I just wasn’t feeling it. That’s actually why I ended up living in Madrid for a year. My original plan was to stay in Barcelona, but after the first day, I bought a train ticket to Madrid. It ended up being much more my kind of place.
Daniel McBane recently contributed to world literature by posting..Forget Vang Vieng—Go Tubing in the Mekong at Si Phan Don
Olga Kapustina says
I was wondering if you have any stock video footage left over from Barcelona?
I am working on a music video for an original song dedicated to this city. I am in love with Barcelona and am trying to make a video collage about it.
Here is the link to a tumblr blog with more details: http://shareyourbarcelona.tumblr.com/
Otherwise, I’ll be happy to answer any questions about the project,
Olga Kapustina recently contributed to world literature by posting..The Story
Daniel McBane says
Unfortunately, my camera does not have a video function, so I don’t have any videos at all. Sorry and good luck in your quest to find footage.
Daniel McBane recently contributed to world literature by posting..Don’t Let China Into Your Home!