I was relieved to find out that Madrid’s public transport system had decided not to jack up its prices again as a way of ringing in the New Year. Once a haven for the economically and ecologically minded, like so many other aspects of this city, transportation has lost its luring luster. Not long ago, you could still purchase special rates like ten trips for ten euros to anywhere in the city. Then the company figured that colleagues in other cities were charging double that and that they, the ones in Madrid, were being perhaps just a little too generous with the population. Now the starting rate to go anywhere is 1.50€, and if you buy a single at one of those machines, how far you want to travel will have a bearing on how much lighter your pocket will be when the transaction is completed. And trust me, you don’t have to wonder a great distance for cost to rise. Airport transport was another fine example. There is an airport bus that used to take you from the center of town to Barajas for a near laughable 2 euros. And the metro would tack on just a 1-euro supplement to your normal ticket for the extra effort of coasting you in within walking distance. Too good to be true? Yeap, it was. Clearly something was not right. You just don’t give good service for low rates. The EMT, Madrid’s bus transport service, decided 5 euros was more appropriate. That meant a 150% price increase. The owners of the company must have come to an agreement with Metro de Madrid, logically, and followed suit, by setting the cost at 5 euros too. If you are traveling light and have the time, it’s a great alternative to the hefty fees of a taxi, generally around 30+ euros all said and told, but a 500% supplement rise is a bit abusive in my book.
I haven’t taken a taxi yet, so I can’t say how things are there. I certainly wasn’t going to grab one on New Year’s Eve, where they tack on a hair-falling 6.70 euros just because it’s the final (or first) night of the year. I’m sorry those poor souls have to work on a night like that, but sticking you for that amount (plus the 2,90€ start-up fee), just to say “Please, take me to…” is simply unreasonable. Even more so when you think other cities with generally more prosperous residents don’t go there. Plus, considering your standard Tuesday night in January drivers would otherwise people scraping for customers, the guaranteed business should be welcome. Why punish them with an extra cost that 230% hirer than the initial one?
Oh, well. I guess I shouldn’t gripe. Things could be worse. Look at Michael Schumacher, for example. A six days ago he went skiing with some friends and now he’s been that long in a medically induced coma trying to suffer severe head injuries as a result of an accident whose cause is not quite clear. The original version was that he was plunging recklessly down a steep slant outside the main slope, or the piste, if you want to sound European, which many accepted as fact since part of his success and brilliance as a race car driver had to do with the temerarious in which he performed on the race track. What could you expect from someone always living on the edge? On top of that, apparently his son was with him, which made it doubly scandalous, no matter how bad you felt for him.
The tides have been turning since then, and though many point out that it shouldn’t matter how it happened, the fact is…the facts can and are important. We like to be the ones to publically announce otherwise, but that’s just to get what I call “talk show applause”, where people routinely assert opinions that no one really agrees with or believes in but which everyone is afraid to admit. So, we all clap. A lot.
Plus, watching how the media handles these subjects fascinates me. It’s a straightforward story; there shouldn’t be much to it. But there is. Honor. First there was word that he was helping out a friend, then the son of a friend, but now the German tabloid Bild claims Schumi was with a group of friends and their children and was pulling up the rear to make sure everything was all right. He then noticed one of the children, a young girl, having trouble, and he swept over to aid the damsel in distress. Somehow that led him some twenty yards off the track (the piste, please) where he encountered a rock and lost his balance, causing him to crash into another one. According to his longtime manager and press spokesperson, Sabine Kehm, he was not going fast at all.
Now Bild is known for its sensationalist reporting, and as a German periodical, it will obviously want to come to the defense of one of that country’s greatest sports legends. But their version does depart notably from the one presented up to that point. Essentially, the only thing the two have in common is that he was skiing and hit a rock. The addition of the little girl may very well be true, I am in no position to question that, but should it turn out to be fancy, or highly distorted fact, well then I am liable not to consider Bild as a reliable news source ever again. The online version did provide a video which traced more or less the tracks down the slope. I am a chicken when it comes to skiing, but even I could tell the slope, sorry piste, was tame enough.
So, what I don’t get is how a man with his skiing experience, on a slope so gentle a billiard ball would come to a stop, and while assisting a young girl with complications should end up striking a boulder so hard that his helmet would actually split in two. It cast doubt on the story of his true speed as well as the quality of the helmet. Oh well, we should learn the truth soon enough.
Here in Spain, a country with a healthy following of Formula 1 racing, coverage has been complete and support widespread for a recovery, to begin with, and a complete one if possible. Criticism went out to two-time champion Fernando Alonso, who took 24 hours to actually send a twitter of support to his previous rival. On top of that, it was something heartwarming like “Get well soon!” followed by a few other rather impersonal remarks. Oh well, it could have been worse. Hamilton, the British driver not always known for his camaraderie, posted a Twitter picture two days later of him skiing. Gracias.