Yesterday I had A Bad Spain Day. It’s really been the whole week, but let’s focus on yesterday. Yesterday, I had an appointment three villages over to get a minor medical procedure done. In and out, the whole procedure takes less than five minutes. Well because of traffic, it took me nearly an hour to get to the doctor’s office. I have learned to take what Google Maps tells me and multiply it by 3 to get an accurate estimate of how long the commute will actually take here, so that’s what I did, and I made it on time. An hour. For what should have been a 20 minute drive.
Why an hour? Aside from the usual nightmare traffic, I had to park a 10 minute walk away in this village because the parking in Spain is scarce and complicated (multiple zones with their own rules, time limits, and half the parking pay machines don’t work). So I parked, I took a photo of the business directly across the street from my parked car in case I could not remember where I parked, and I started walking. (Yes I should have dropped a pin. I will never make this mistake again.) I hiked up a foothill or two, through the city center, around some construction and eventually made it to the doc, did the thing, even filled out paperwork in Spanish (my language skills are improving!) and paid and left. It was very cheap. The same procedure costs me 75 USD back home; here it was 6 Euro.
So then I go to walk back to my car. I stood outside the doctor’s office and googled the business where I parked. It gave me an address. 12 minute walk. Fine, seems a little longer but I’ll just follow the directions. Keep in mind the humidity is around 10%, the sun is in full blaze and I’m wearing old sandals and I forgot to bring water. (I am always, always thirsty here, and my skin is like paper.)
Well, naturally, the directions were wrong and they took me clear across the other side of the village away from my car. The business had moved but they left their old signage up. I called them. They didn’t speak English and they laughed at me when I tried to speak Spanish to them asking for the old address. I wandered the streets in the sun for nearly two hours, trying and mostly failing not to panic, up and down steep, slippery sidewalks and panting. I went into a Farmacia and, using Google Translate, explained I was looking for this storefront and showed the lady the photo. She gave me the same address as Google did, which was no help, but at least she tried. My next step was polizia, but living in New Orleans for 20 years trained me to avoid police at all costs unless I am actively dying and maybe not even then. It was a last resort I ended up not taking. I got nearly 10,000 steps once I finally found my car again.
How did I find my car? I went into Google Timeline and retraced my steps from the parking spot, locating a business near the car and then googled the business name and entered directions for it. Another 12 minute walk back across town in the heat, sweating, thirsty, near tears and very frustrated. By this time, it was 1PM and I had a work meeting at 1:30. I made it home and only 3 minutes late to my meeting, driving through countless roundabouts, waiting for endless streams of pedestrians to cross, complete gridlock in the city center, and then around construction zones and around parked busses and then nearly had an accident merging onto another roundabout when a woman cut me off because I wasn’t speeding fast enough for her through a 20KM pedestrian zone. (The drivers here are horrible.)
And none of this, none of this stressful hours-long ordeal was surprising or new. I was laughing in my car on the way home, of course this is happening. Of course I’m going to be late to a 1:30PM meeting from an 11AM appointment “20 minutes away.” OF COURSE, BECAUSE SPAIN.
Suffice to say the charm has worn off. It’s been 8 months and I’m entering the “this shit sucks” phase of ex pat life. When I see cobblestone “streets” that can barely fit one car down them, I am no longer inspired to take photos. I am grumpy because I know driving on them is going to be awful and stressful and Google Maps is not going to be accurate at all and I’m likely going to get lost. I am not charmed. I am annoyed.
This ex pat situation is not easy. Often, it is not fun. It is an Experience(TM) for sure. I’m not even going into the complete fiasco that has been DHL trying to deliver a package to me for FOUR DAYS now and fucking it up because they entered the wrong postal code and tried to deliver it to some sketchy barrio in south Madrid Tuesday. I’ve already paid for the package and it was supposed to be here Monday. Multiple customer service requests, emails, missed phone calls and in one instance, me cussing out a chat bot (not my finest moment) later, it is again out for delivery today. I have no hope that the package will ever make it to my house. I will be shocked if I ever receive it. I will be further shocked if I receive it and they don’t try to shake me down for more money upon delivery. Everything here is COD. I have to keep cash in the house to pay the mailman if get mail from the US or else he takes the mail away and I have to go pick it up at the post office, which is not open on weekends, and weirdly does not charge me if I go there to get it. Hm.
Today I am focusing on the long term goals I’ve made. Home ownership back in the US. I’m on Zillow checking out places I’d like to live once I return. Meanwhile, I have to go run all of my garbage myself two towns over and hope I have water service when I go to take a shower later. Because sometimes I don’t. Sometimes the water cuts off with no warning for hours, at least once a month. Usually at the most inconvenient time. Not that there is an especially convenient time to lose water service to your house for hours.
I’ll write a more comprehensive post about all of the What the Fucks I’ve encountered here in Spain later. I made a list last night. 30 Things I Hate About Spain. The list is growing more today. I’m in a bad mood. I am pissed off I can’t even get an optometrist to contact me to make an appointment so I can get new contact lenses. I am wearing the wrong prescription and have daily headaches and vision problems and eye pain and no one will write me back so I can translate it to English and request an appointment. I am pissed off I can’t get a vet to write me back about getting my kitty’s shots and annual check up. Everyone says “just call.” NO. It is not 1995. The internet exists. Email exists. I don’t speak Spanish well enough to “just call.” DHL called me five times this week and no one on the other end spoke English when I answered, I tried to explain in broken Spanish and got hung up on, and so I gave up trying to explain an address to them that they have already fucked up twice.
It seems like every minor task, every mundane, should-be-simple chore like going to the eye doctor or getting my annual check up or updating a delivery address is a massive ordeal involving multiple phone calls, WhatsApp messages, fighting horrific traffic for hours, multiple mistakes to fix (a mistyped email address with my home security company, a fat-fingered postal code with DHL, the list goes on, and it happens more often than not and always takes days to resolve if it even gets resolved), and no one is in a hurry to do anything, there is zero sense of urgency, and everything takes at minimum half a day. I am EXHAUSTED. Everything is a fight, is unnecessarily difficult and time-consuming, I can’t depend on basic services like the mail or water to work consistently, and I have very little help.
I’m not in love with Spain today. Not at all.
I know eventually I’ll reach an equilibrium and take the bad with the good and appreciate my time here with a better perspective, but I’m not there yet. Right now I am tired and right now I am feeling very fed up. These things, these inconveniences and headaches and so on, they are fine if you are on vacation and they’re tolerable, even quirky, for a week or two or hell even a month, and they make a great story to tell once you return home and are comfortable, where things makes sense and generally work correctly. But for multiple years? Living like this? It wears thin.