“Never run after a bus or a man. There will always be another one.” – Anonymous
They say that bad habits are hard to die. You see, I have this thing with Spanish buses, they are excruciatingly punctual. I have this tendency to miss them and they have this liking of going to their destinations sans moi. Missing buses has already become a way of life every time I travel around Spain. Like when I missed the bus bound for Barcelona, or one time, Zamora, the other time, Santiago de Compostela. But the day has come when the universe has finally decided to put an end to my bus chasing days.
With drooping shoulders and a glum face, I ignore the heavy weight of my rucksack as I climb up the escalator. I am supposed to be sitting on seat#15 by the window at exactly 10.30 on my way to Santiago de Compostela. But it didn’t happen. I know that buses in Spain are extremely punctual but two minutes! Anyway, when I got to the platform, I had a nagging feeling that something was wrong. First, the designated bus was not there. Second, there were no people standing and waiting. And third, the screen no longer showed the 10:30 a.m. Madrid-Santiago trip.
As I stand impatiently on the escalator waiting for it to reach the lobby, I am blaming myself. How on earth did I miss the bus? I woke up at eight this morning. I had two hours and a half to take my bum to the bus station. So why? Honestly, I was planning to actually skip this part so that my whining and complaining would sound justifiable but I am confessing nonetheless. After preparing my stuff and was already good to go, I opened my laptop and went online. I opened Facebook and uploaded some photos. I lost track of time and before I knew it, it was already two minutes past ten. I grabbed my rucksack, pulled the plug of my laptop out of the socket without properly closing it, sped out of the house, ran to the nearest metro and dashed up and down the escalator of the bus station. An empty platform greeted me when I got there at exactly thirty two past ten.
Why didn’t I call my friends, you might ask. Well, if you already know me and my thing with buses and trains, you won´t even bother to know. My friends would just feign surprise, try to sound sympathetic for two seconds, and release a sorry smile. I hurriedly walk straight to the ticket booth where I bought the ticket. Seeing no queue, I instantly put on my innocent face as soon as a friendly lady signals me to come forward.
“I’m just wondering whether the ten-thirty bus going to Santiago has already left? Because I have been waiting downstairs and it seems that it is not coming.”
The lady gives me a confused look. I hand her my ticket and continue,
“Has the trip to Santiago been cancelled?”
She stares at the ticket, then looks at her watch and then back at me.
“It has already left. At 10.30. That´s ten minutes ago.”
“That’s impossible! I have been waiting for the bus since 10.25 and there wasn´t any!”
Okay, this is just between you and me. I am not sure whether I sounded convincing, because I myself am not buying my alibi and from the look on her face, neither does the lady. She checks her computer. Her eyebrows seem to have a life of their own as they race to reach her hairline. She is not convinced all right. “You missed the bus.”
I hate it when she rubs it on me. “What’s the next trip?”
“At 3.40 this afternoon, arrival time, 12.45 the following day “
“But am I paying for the new ticket? The bus wasn’t there when I arrived at exactly 10:25! Not my fault.”
“Yes, you have to pay. And that’s forty one euros.”
You must be kidding me! I grudgingly fish for my fifty-euro bill and my bus company´s Client Plus card inside my bag. The lady sees the card and her face changes a bit. I instantly feel that something good is going to happen. “You are not paying anything.”
Thank God for my Client Plus card. Forty one euros saved from going down the drain. I take the metro back to my house and straight to my room. I am just about to change my clothes when I hear a knock on the door. Expectedly, my landlady just feigns surprise, sympathetic for two seconds, then gives me a sorry smile. I tell her I am taking the next trip later in the afternoon. I reach for my ticket inside my jacket’s pocket and look at the time of the departure. I look again, startled. The ticket bears two time schedules. First the computer-printed 3:40 and the other, 3:49 that was handwritten by the lady on the upper side of the ticket. I wonder which is which. Nah, I will be at the station before three forty anyway.
After lunch, I still have three hours to kill so I decide to take a nap. A sudden force of electricity jolts me out of deep slumber. I raise my left hand and place it near my still half-closed eyes. 3:15! NO &$%· WAY!
I get up as fast as I can, get dressed, put on my shoes, grab my rucksack, lock my room and slam the door of our house without saying goodbye to my landlady. I feel my muscles trembling while I am finally inside the metro. Oh God, please make this train fly. I am so going to miss the bus. Again.
I hold out the ticket. Three forty or Three forty nine? Maybe, there has been a change of today’s timetable. Maybe there has been a slight nine-minute difference from the original time. I sprint out of the wagon and up the escalator to the entrance of the bus station and down to the platforms. As I am going down the escalator, I see the station´s big clock smiling THREE FORTY FIVE in front of me. Good. I still have four minutes. Or not. I feel like I´m having déjà vu. I find myself all alone in the platform: no crowd waiting and no bloody bus! Again. I feel my heart beating fast. I feel sweat falling down my face. This is not so happening. I am angry. I have to be angry. My ticket says THREE FORTY NINE. This time, this is not my fault! I made it on time, right?
I march up the escalator and straight to the ticket booth. To my relief, there is only a short queue. With my ticket in one hand and my Client Plus card in the other, I line up. It is a different lady now.
“I am supposed to get on the 3:49 bus to Santiago.”
“But the bus to Santiago has already left. At Three Forty.
“Three forty? But the lady who sold me wrote Three forty nine.”
The lady examines the ticket then checks her computer.
“Sorry, but you have missed the bus.”
“No! That can’t be. I just followed what the lady has written on my ticket! She wrote THREE FORTY NINE!”
My voice starts to sound sharper and higher. Some onlookers turn to ogle. My Spanish is shaking. The lady signals me to lean forward.
“Look, she actually wrote Three Forty. Do you see this? My colleague accidentally put a tail on the zero that made it look like a nine. But still, you should have followed what the computer print out says. Three Forty!”
“I got your point. But still, it was not my fault. Now I missed the bus because all the while I thought it was three forty… NINE!”
She looks at me. I look straight at her. Nobody blinks for a moment. Which I think is already like forever. I am not blinking. I am not going to give in.
So here I am again inside the bus station. I have been sitting here on this chair for three hours now. One more hour to go and I’m out of here. I am waiting for my twelve midnight bus to Santiago, which is already the day after THE fateful day. I see to it that this time, there is no way for me to miss the bus again. Okay Universe! You won!
And no, I did not pay for the bus ticket. I did not blink! I insisted that it was the lady’s fault. They gave me a new ticket. I called my friend Mae and waited at her place until nine in the evening and yes, I got all the mocking in the world for missing the bus twice. I check my watch. Ten past eleven. Fifty one minutes to go. Good.
Nats Sisma Villaluna came to Spain to study Masters in International Sectorial Economics at the University of Santiago de Compostela in 2004. From 2005 to 2008, he worked as a volunteer with various Spanish NGOs in Madrid. In 2009, he took up Masters in International Cooperation at the University of Barcelona. At present, he juggles from teaching English to being an active volunteer of Centro Filipino in Barcelona. He is a member of The Filipino Writers in Spain and the Grupo Concierto Filipino. Nats is a lover of books, good food and art films. He also travels a lot in his free time.