Some people may disagree with me, but I think that the Madrid public transportation system is just fine…except when it’s on strike, which seems to be an annual event. Still, it sure beats the majority of the systems back home in the States, and though that is not saying much, I have to give it credit for providing the kind of service a modern city this size needs to function properly. The subway system, known as the metro, is especially effective and probably one of the best in the world. The buses are good too and reach out to more places but are subject to whims of city traffic which is dreadful at times. I love taking the bus, but only when I am not in a hurry; because if you are, they have a funny way of going missing just when you need them. If the distance is not too far, sometimes it’s worth skipping and hoofing it.
That was just the kind of predicament that hit me yesterday when I had to go up for a doctor’s appointment to have a checkup on my hernia. I took the usual route up. The metro to Plaza de Castilla and from there the 174 bus to the hospital out in Sanchinarro, a new neighborhood in northern Madrid. The way there was fine. It took, it took, and it took about 35 minutes. I even had time to grab another coffee before getting to the office. They told me to come at 10:00 and that they would get me through as soon as possible. I arrived at 9:50 and hoped for the best, which didn’t come for another 40 minutes. Sometimes that’s the best.
If I told you I was in the doctor’s office for more that 3 minutes, I think I would be lying. From the outset he said everything looked all right. He went for the testicle and asked if it hurt. I said as long as you don’t squeeze it shouldn’t. And that was it. Then he set me free.
The way back was one of those trips that falter from the beginning and then collapse altogether later on. I rushed out of the hospital and bolted up the street to the nearest bus stop. I had an hour to get back to where I wanted to be. In many parts of the city they have set up electronic signs which indicate how long it will take for the next bus to come. This is true of the subway too, which had come a long way since the ways where the signs would tell you when the last one left, as if you really cared. Some people do, I guess, but for the most part it just pained you more to know how much further along you could gave been if you had only caught it.
Not all the stops had these signs. Most are on major thoroughfares, which, of course, was not my case. As you would expect, the bus did not arrive in the desired frame time but some 15 minutes later. There was a point when I thought I would just shout for a taxi and take hold of my own destiny, until I realized I was so far out that my own destiny just wasn’t worth the price of the fare. I can be such a cheapskate when it comes to my future.
From that point onward just about everything that could go wrong did. It did, it did, it did go wrong. The bus took its sweet time down the streets, making a concerted effort to test its brakes at every stop and traffic light. The drive out is pretty much straightforward but on the way into town, the line takes a more scenic route, which included streets that hardly fit on the Google Map.
I finally abandoned the bus flustered and convinced that if I continued all the way to the Plaza Castilla and descended into the metro I would never make it. If fact, I knew it. I tried to wave off destiny but it returned to drag me back. I flagged down a taxi and coolly told him where I wanted to go, and how I wanted to go. Should that have sufficed? Of course, it should have. But this was no ordinary chauffer. This was my conscious behind the wheel and the responsible for my second-guessing everything I had done up to that point. He suggested that taking the M-30 would be cheaper and faster…faster maybe but cheaper definitely not. I knew this. I knew it perfectly well. But the man was skilled at being cunning. But the man, I tell you, was skilled at being cunning and explained carefully just all the different ways he was going to rip me off, but with such a convincing tone, that I fell for it. “You see? I told you.” And me, knowing I had forked over about 35% more than I should have paid, handed him a 29 euro bill and thanked him as I waited for the meager change to come back to me.
On top of that, I tipped him.
No words can describe.