This is a series of posts about Italy, Malta, and Spain that starts here.
I had been contacted by a head hunter about a job. I wasn’t really looking, but I was intrigued this particular opportunity. It would be based in Cambridge, England. Having lived in and loved Cambridge’s bigger twin Oxford, this was very appealing. It was an environmental organization. At the time, I thought that would be less depressing than torture, but now that the White House is full of climate change deniers, I’m not so sure.
The head hunter was in Madrid, and as I sat waiting for my flight—to Madrid—we tapped Skype messages back and forth. She wanted to make sure I knew I would “have to” move to England for the job. Was that okay with me? Was it?! Yes, I replied, that was a plus, especially given the US election results. She then wrote a number of long messages about how she and her colleagues at this international recruiting firm were shocked and worried, depressed and sickened.
She said she would put my CV forward, but I never heard from them. Oh well, it was nice to daydream about for a few weeks.
I sat next to a 30-something Maltese guy on my flight to Spain. He had olive skin, light brown hair, and glass-green eyes. I told him I had loved Malta and would like to go back. He listened as I gushed about the sea views, the friendly people, the fishing village, the food, and the humble shops.
“Sometimes you forget,” he said reflectively, “when you have lived in a place all your life, how good it is.”
Lynn sent me a What’s App message telling me how to catch the airport bus to Madrid’s central station, Atocha. Of course I wandered around the airport first for 15 minutes, but this time it wasn’t my fault. There was construction everywhere, and if there ever had been signage, it had been removed or covered up. I went up the escalator, down a long hall, back the other way, back down, down a long hall, then spied an information desk. It was a handicapped assistance desk, but the two young employees behind it looked as though they hadn’t had a customer since 2010. They were slouched over with their chins in their hands, looking at their cell phones.
I asked for directions to the bus stop in Spanish.
“This is the handicapped assistance desk,” the young woman said in English.
“I realize that,” I said back in English, “What would you tell a handicapped person?”
She reluctantly struggled to sit up and put aside her phone, while her male coworker ignored us and kept scrolling. I wasn’t in Malta anymore. She gave me halfhearted directions which turned out to be wrong. I finally stumbled upon the main assistance desk, which was hidden behind construction sheeting. The employee there acted surprised by my question, as though I was the first person ever to ask where the bus stop was, but his directions were accurate.
The bus was direct and had wireless. In half an hour I was at the station, where Lynn was waiting for me.
As usual when we meet up, we had a lot to say. We don’t communicate a lot in between trips, except via Facebook, so there was a lot to catch up on. The Brexit vote and Trump’s election alone would be fodder for hours of conversation.
We talked as we walked to the Hotel Paseo del Arte, sine very nice digs Lynn had booked, just two blocks from the station. We cracked open that bottle of red wine she had ready and talked some more. It was only 4:00 in the afternoon and life didn’t really get going in Madrid until 8:00, so we had plenty of time.
A couple hours flew by. Lynn had scouted out that it was free admission night at the Reina Sofia art museum, home to Picasso’s masterpiece about war, Guernica. Like our trip to Berlin the year before, this would be the first of about a dozen museums we would visit in two weeks.