My Spanish friends, a married couple, Pepé and Mercedes, decided to take me to their cottage in the village of Navaluenga. Here we, with Mercedes´s sister Clara and brother Iván, should spend the weekend before my flight on Sunday evening back home. We had two wonderful, sunny days. We had fun, talked and walked. I was shown that nightlife started here when we in Slovakia are going to sleep. Consequently, we slept for a long time in the morning. On the day of our departure, we woke about 11 a.m. We had breakfast on the sunny terrace, and then we went for a walk. My friend Mercedes asked me about the departure-time of my flight.
”At 7 p.m.. I should be at the airport before 6 p.m..”
The look on my hosts´ faces told me that we have a problem. Pepe asked me if I was sure:
”Do you know that the time changed from winter to summer? It’s now an hour later than we have on our watches!”
I knew, of course, that the time was going to change. For some reason I thought that the night of the change would be after I was already on the plane.
It was 1 p.m., in fact already 2 p.m., and my hosts hurriedly prepared an improvised schedule. Unfortunately, Sunday lunch was part of the agenda, and a good Sunday lunch one simply can’t bypass in Spain.
The women cooked and we packed. By the time we had eaten, washed the dishes, cleaned up and locked the door it was 4 o’clock. Pepe, who was driving, said that everything was going to be okay. We would make it.
Everything would have been still all right if we hadn’t found ourselves soon at the rear of a convoy of weekend motorists on the roads leading to Madrid. But we did. We were stuck in a column that was only moving inch by inch. We couldn´t turn round or drive across country, only shuffle along behind the others. I knew it is bad. And, to add insult to injury, I had to pee soooooo badly. But where? For many kilometers around there was only a treeless plain. And I was scared that the column would at last start to move and I couldn’t stray so far from the car. The scene was prepared for an ideal tragi-farce.
Mercedes and her sister Clara tried to comfort me. However, all their goodwill was nothing against the fact ringing a bell all the time again. If I failed to make my flight I would have had to wait four days for the next one. I had a nonconvertible flight ticket, and on Wednesday I had to attend a conference in Hungary.
„Be cool, Gustav. If we don’t catch the plane, we won’t stop until we get to Bratislava.
Convoy of cars finally started moving. Step by step we finally reached the spot where this whole transportation calamity started and we collectively sighted with relief. Finally, we made our way on the Circle Highway around Madrid. Houses and whole districts of the town were blinking about us quickly, as if Pepe was surpassing all speed limits. But the airport was nowhere to be seen. When I asked where we were, Mercedes smiled and answered that we were on the outskirts of Bratislava, a nice attempt of a joke – except that it wasn’t funny. And my need for a toilet had escalated to an unbelievable degree. But try to stop in the middle of the highway when your flight leaves in fifteen minutes! So the casual travelers at the Madrid international airport on this Sunday evening witnessed a spectacular scene.
A car screeched to a halt and a man dashed frantically into the terminal. Two girls jumped out from the same car, grabbed some luggage and ran after the man. Mercedes and her sister Clara tried to check-in as I was doing my toilet business. But, of course, I had forgotten to give them my documents.
Well, I can now confirm that Spanish women maintain their calm in moments of dire crisis. They rushed to the men’s toilet and explained the situation. I slipped my documents under the door of the toilet and they dashed back to check-in counter. After I dispensed with all exigent matters, I ran across the airport hall yanking up my pants. Mercedes and Clara just had time to give me my passport and boarding pass and I wished them well and made my way across the inspection points at the airport. All the officials closed their eyes, and I found the right gate and clambered in the bus to the plane just before the door were closed.
Sitting in the plane I needed few cognacs to help me to recover.
From a book (see in E-book form here) by Gustáv Murín: Svet je malý/The World is Small – collection of travel stories in bilingual Slovak–English edition, SPN Publ., 2012.