11 January 2010

Alans Column in the Leinster Leader

Schnitzel’s European Adventures.
Getting to Madrid.

Madrid was going to be aweseome. We both needed someone else to talk to, somewhere else to sleep, something else to eat, Madrid was our light at the end of the tunnel.
And because nothing ever works like that, because you can’t just walk to Mecca, some all powerful being, some bully to be honest, threw every plague in our path. Of course I exaggerate a tad, there was no frogs or locusts, but there was very nearly floods. We were supposed to leave Bilbao and arrive in Madrid that night. It took us three days. We decided on the scenic route. This failed due to accelerated diminishing sunlight and tons of rain, the van struggled with the twists and turns and wetness of the road so we got back onto the motorway and pulled into a rest stop to sleep and cut our losses. Day 2 was admitedly semi our own fault we slept long into the day and then really stretched out the showers in the rest stop which cost €1.70. We got our moneys’ worth. It was already getting dusk but we figured sure it’s the motorway, we can drive easily in the dark. Our all powerful enemy had other plans, and he unoriginally chose weather again. His weapon of choice this time; fog. A fog so thick I could spread it on my toast, and just as you don’t appreciate an untasty spread, I did not appreciate this fog that had me creeping along the motorway at 50km an hour. Eventually we gave up, it wasn’t worth it, so we pulled into a rest stop that was probably walking distance from the first one, had our dinner and went to bed early like grumpy old men.
Day 3: it was already ridiculous, we should have been in Madrid the day before yesterday, today we were going to weld the accelerator to the floor and really clock up the miles. If we kept a steady fast pace we could be there in four hours. Hands gripped firmly on the wheel, sitting in my best Schumacher pose I pulled out of the rest stop, got up a good speed, a truck was in my way, I pulled out to the fast lane to take him over and…kaput. The accelerator was not in the mood for me today. I watched the truck ease past me and I had no choice but to hold in the tears and free roll onto the hard shoulder. We had broken down. At least it wasn’t weather this time, sadistic bastard. I opened the bonnet realised the oil was low so I topped it up, closed the bonnet and attempted to start the engine. Rinrinrin. Nothing. It wasn’t the oil to I tried to open the bonnet again..kaput. Wouldn’t open. Lovely. A maintenance guy from the motorway pulled up behind us, hadn’t a word of English, he looked in the engine and said, very prophetically, “kaput”. I had to agree, what else could I do? So he phoned the police because they ‘spoke English’, I understand that much, and he proceeded to cut mushrooms from the roadside with a pen knife and stuff them in a plastic bag in his pocket. Then he called the police again, presumably to tell them to hurry up, he said something to us about “chicas, marijuana, and Barcelona” and then he left us there alone. Eventually the police showed up, one English expression learned off, which he engaged with sufficent anger, “This is Spain! In Spain we speak a Spanish!” that was it, he then seemed very angry at us for both not speaking Spanish and for breaking down. We really were being inconsiderate I suppose. He had a gun so I just stood there and said si si si. Until eventually he said the word mechanic to which I said si si si with a lot more enthusiasm. The police sped off and we had to play the waiting game again, not too long after, the mechanic, our messiah showed up. Once again, no English. He looked at the car and asked “kaput?” to which I confidently retorted “kaput.”

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