This post is more of an account of my own stupidity rather than anything that might actually help someone with his or her own study abroad experience, but it is something that I’ve chosen to write about because it is a memory that I will never forget. I suppose it could also be a testament to the good character of one particular taxi driver to whom I am extensively thankful.
Last week at La Universidad Pública de Navarra (UPNA) we had a puente, literally meaning a bridge but also commonly known as a long weekend. I seized the opportunity that our first extended break provided and swept off to Italy for the extra-long weekend. Italy was indeed very interesting and I enjoyed my time there as much as I always enjoy Italy but this is a blog about Spain so I will continue with the telling of my self-inflicted distress which occurred in Spain and was thankfully short-lived.
I arrived back in Spain via airplane in Madrid around 11 PM. My bus back to Pamplona was going to arrive at Barajas, the Madrid airport, at 1 AM so I had nothing better to do than eat and people watch. I entertained myself with both activities for about an hour and a half and then went outside to find if my bus had arrived. Unsurprisingly, the bus was not yet there so I walked around for a while trying to make time go a little faster; I was tired and although not the most desirable location for sleep, the bus would provide a place to rest for a few hours. While waiting, I realized that even Spanish people are confused about the bus system in Spain. It was fast approaching the time for the bus going to Soria to arrive and everyone seemed to be waiting on the same arrival. There was a common look of disturbance and uncertainty on the faces of all who were waiting there. Each time a bus arrived some athletic heroine would run and see where it was going… I waited coyly and observed from a distance; it was after 1 AM and I was not running anywhere if it could possibly be avoided. Finally, our bus arrived and since you must change buses in Soria in order to arrive in Pamplona, I was instructed by the driver to put my bag on the left side of the bus. This system is quite ineffective I realized because when we arrived in Soria my bag had taken a flying leap to the other side of the bus and I had to collect it from a different door. I sleepily lifted it out of the cargo hold on the opposite side of the bus and pulled it grudgingly to its next resting spot. The cheerful driver standing there asked me if I was going to Pamplona and with some sleepy reply which was not really formed of words but more or less of sounds, I responded positively. He directed me to the bus behind him and I climbed on and prepared to go back to sleep. At this point I realized that this particular bus was equipped with a wifi connection. I was momentarily distracted but my desire for sleep overcame my internet addiction and I resumed resting. I slept off and on as we went through Tudela and other small towns on our way to Pamplona.
Finally, we arrived and I couldn’t have been happier to leave the bus, gather my things and immediately get a taxi to take me directly to my warm and cozy bed in which I would not be sleeping against an armrest. Apparently others had the same idea so I waited in the line with my fellow travelers for about 15 minutes for the taxi to arrive and drive me the 5 minute drive to my apartment. Silly, I know, but at the time it seemed like a good idea.
The taxi ride was short and uneventful. I spent a few minutes digging euro coins out of my wallet in preparation to pay the driver. When I took my wallet in my hands I put the folder containing my passport and travel documents next to me on the seat. Now, at this point you might be able to guess what is going to occur. I didn’t realize until I was in the stairwell and the taxi had driven away that although I still had one suitcase, one purse and one small object in my hand that the small object I now had in my hand was my wallet instead of my folder containing all of my important documents. Yes, this was a situation in which the expression joder is applicable (if you don’t know what that means and you can’t tell from the context of this story then feel free to look it up). My heart was racing as I climbed the five flights of stairs to my apartment, all the while fabricating outrageous scenarios in which my identity is stolen and my life is forever ruined. Once again, I bow down to whomever created the wondrous thing that we now know as the internet because it certainly saved my life as I know it today. Okay, maybe that is a little dramatic but it made this whole mishap much less traumatic for me. I immediately went online and found the website of the taxi company. I called them with Skype because my Spanish phone likes to ask for a pin number every time it has been shut off… a pin number that my brain does not like to remember. The next overwhelming task was to explain to the person answering my call just exactly what had happened. I told him that I had left some important documents in the cab and the locations of where I had come from and gone to. I spelled my first and last name to him – at least five times because he seemed to be unfamiliar with them both, and then he said, “Okay, we will be at your door in 15 minutes.” I put my coat back on and went downstairs to wait while thinking that it would be impossible for my passport to be returned to me so easily. Much to my relief in less than 15 minutes the taxi driver who is now a hero to me pulled in front of my door and returned my passport. I thanked him and he asked for nothing in return but instead just cheerfully smiled and went back to doing his job.
I am a very careful traveler and a careful person in general but things like this can happen to anyone. In the future I know that I will never leave a taxi without double-checking that I have all of the possessions I entered with, no matter what time of day or night it is and how sleep-deprived I am. I am so thankful to that cab driver for being so honest and so nice about my absent-mindedness and I’m also thankful to have learned a valuable lesson which was so easily solved in a very short amount of time.