It’s pretty incredible just how quickly we put bad memories behind us. When we want to. When we can.
Just yesterday I was on my way to meet up with some writers for a drink, because that is what you do with writers, because that is what writers do. It was a fairly simple procedure in a non-complicated nook in the city, but in a generally lively part of town. I like to walk just about everywhere I go in Madrid, because traveling any other way makes me think ill of mankind and wish ill things upon its members. But I was supposed to meet up at 6:00p.m. and was walking out the door at 6:30 and that meant I needed to make an effort not to be too late. I plotted out my plan and opted for the metro which meant going up one stop to Príncipe de Vergara, switching onto the Red Line, woefully called by contract the Vodafone Line 2, which takes you by the metro station, the Vodafone Sol. Vodafone is making a concerted and expensive effort to remind me why I will never buy its products, if at all possible.
Now, to provide you with some perspective, this weekend is known as the Puente de Diciembre, which is a two-holiday extravanganza which, depending on the year, can turn into a 5-day stretch of no work. The days off are December 6, Constitution Day, which honors one of the least respected and defended documents in the land, and December 8 is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which most Americans confuse with a miraculous football catch from the 1970s.
It’s also one of the busiest weekends in Madrid because hordes of Spaniards from around the country come to the capital to enjoy the bright and cheery yuletide atmosphere, something which had dimmed somewhat in recent years. While this sounds like a terrific idea from a visitors standpoint, this excitement quickly wanes when they realize that some 200,000 people from all over have come up with the same idea.
This would not bother me otherwise, I try to step away from the misfortune of foolish others at this time of year, were it not for the fact that when I need to get anywhere that comes within a two-mile radius of the heart of Madrid, life becomes unbearable.
I had forgotten about this tiny point until I got off at the Príncipe de Vergara station and noticed that about three hundred other public transportation users planning on doing the same, as if it were 8:30 in the morning and we were on our way to work. At other times of the year, moving around the city at that hour be a harm. But we weren’t, and I found this terribly disturbing.
I skipped to the front of the line the way people can in this city, feeling guiltless about my stealthy conduct and relieved to leave scores of people behind, reached the topped of the escalator and, to my shock, ran into an equally massive group of transiters of all ages racing towards us as if they were being pursued by a pride of lions. We met in the center, like two tributaries, and turned down another corridor to form one gigantic river of people eager to get to the sea of holiday sightseers around the Plaza Mayor. I came to the conclusion that not a single household in the city was being occupied.
The only difference was, I had no intention of joining them, had no choice but to go along with them because my stop was beyond the Vodafone Sol, the only underground station whose name has been legally usurped by a telecommunications company, or any company come to think of it. All I had to do was survive four stops and everything would be better.
I reached the Line 4 platform and hoped to get on before the rest could catch up, but quite possibly some divine force was punshing me for being such a cheeky bastard because the train came, opened up for a few seconds, was so filled it admitted no passengers, closed its doors again and departed quietly. The next was four minutes, and that was more than ample time for the rest of the travelers to reach the platform. It felt like New Year’s Eve.
I honestly considered calling it quits because I couldn’t imagine any of us finding the space to get on the next subway, nor was I in the mood for pushing my way on, the way they apparently do on those Japanese trains. But that wat precisely what everyone else around me had in mind. So, when the underground train pulled in and we could see the look of utter shock on the faces of the people inside, one thing was clear, it was every man for himself.
In fact, there was more room inside. It was just that no one wanted to give because they were afriad they might be unable to get off when it was their turn. Five hundred people on the outside made them change their mind. Miracle of all miracles, we did fit. The train groaned all the way, but it finally pulled into Vodafone Sol, and 90% of the passengers alighted. Upstairs, more of the same awaited them.
The crisis was over. I carried on for another four stations to San Bernardo, got off, walked a few blocks down Manuela de Malasaña street to a craft beer bar to have a drink with some writers, which is what you do when are with writers. Which is what you do. The crisis must be over.
We agreed the crisis was not over but that Spaniards now believe it has, most likely out of necessity. Then we talked about Cleveland and forgot about everything.