Well Known by the Freight Office?

Part III of Rebecca’s Spain Stories

When I awoke early the next morning, my first thought was of the freight office, not of Gaudí architecture or sightseeing. I bounded downstairs to ask the receptionist to dial the number. No answer. An hour later, at eight, a gruff man answered. I stuttered reading my claim number in Spanish. Not there. Yikes, should I come back for them?
Back in our room, Rachel squeezed my hand. “Don’t worry. You have the rest of the day to get your bags! Let’s eat.” I felt better after peach juice, fresh bread with jam, and strong coffee under a red parasol. Nothing is as bleak after breakfast.
“Come sightsee with me; four hours until my train leaves,” Rachel invited.
“I think I’d be too nervous. I’ve got to stay near the phone,” I said.
“At least walk down Las Ramblas with me.”
“The weather is perfect . . . Okay, I will.”
We strolled down the pedestrian mall looking at people, craft stalls, flower sellers, and sidewalk cafés. The Cataluñan women were stylishly dressed in beautiful monochromatic orange, purple, or black outfits and heels. I suspected the handful in tennies were tourists.
Las Ramblas mosaic path evolved from diagonal lines, to plain tiles, to a playful Miró mural as we walked. I’d think of my trouble, my gut would clench, I’d say “They’re not going to arrive,” then Rachel would point out a new marvel. I’d relax until the next wave hit.

After an hour, Rachel looked at her watch. “Gosh, I’ve got to pack.” We turned around. On the way, Rachel bought a flower. This is for you,” she said.
“Thanks!” The paella, her calming words, the walk, and the sunflower; Rachel cheered me up. What divine providence made her arrive in Barcelona when I did?
“The luggage will get here. You’ll see,” she said, squeezing my shoulder.
“Hope so.” If my bags didn’t arrive by next morning, I’d leave without them.

Rachel and I rang the pensión bell. Inside, Rachel headed up the stairs to pack.
The receptionist gave me a message from the freight office. I phoned immediately. I read my claim numbers and got a yes. I asked their hours. His answer, “Until 16:30.”
That’s 4:30; after picking them up I could make the afternoon train to Toledo. “Good. Where are you?”
“The claim ticket has the address,” he said. It did, I thanked him and said goodbye. He grunted and hung up. I whooped in excitement. I told the clerk my news and he marked the location of the freight office on a tourist map and two bus numbers. I thanked him and ran up to the room. “Guess what?”
“They arrived?” she said.
“They did!”
“What did I tell you?” I told her she was right. But, I’d forgotten my flower downstairs. “Well, you can pick it up as you see me out.”
“You’re leaving?” My stomach knotted. I thought she’d go with me.
“Yes. I’m packed,” she said patting her backpack. “I don’t want to have to run to catch my train.”
“Have time to go to the freight office with me?” I entreated. She said no. “When does your train leave?” I asked, hoping to box her in. She told me at 2. “That’s two and a half hours from now. Won’t take long.”
She was firm. “I’m going to pick up something to eat and a magazine before the train arrives. That doesn’t leave me any time. You’ll be fine.” This was the moment to let Rachel go. It was up to me to solve the luggage problem I had created for myself. I saw her to the front door. “Thanks, Rachel. You’ve been great.”
I took the bus to the Barcelona freight office. When I arrived, it was open but empty. The rustic wooden floors and counters looked like 1887, rather than 1987. A hand-lettered sign said, “Toque la timbre.” I rang the bell once. Nada. I called out, “¿Hola?” Finally, a man in his fifties with a black visor walked briskly from a back room shaking his head. I recognized him immediately, His Grumpiness from the morning. He scowled at my claim slip and asked for my passport. Shyly, I lifted my belly-shaped passport from my security pouch at my waist. The employee made disapproving noises as he flattened and leafed through the blue-covered document.
He handed it back and walked off without a word. His visor disappeared behind a distant shelving system. Was he coming back? The scratchy noise of metal wheels echoed through the office. Grumpy pushed a large wooden wagon full of suitcases into view. His face contracted in distaste as my countenance brightened. He plopped down my luggage on the counter one by one. I sighed an excited, “¡Gracias!” His face crinkled in disapproval. I’d have hugged each piece in turn, if he hadn’t been watching. All four had made it. I signed two forms in triplicate to acknowledge receipt. Long live Spanish bureaucracy, or was that Cataluñan?
Finished with our transaction, the clerk continued his work behind the counter. I peered at him. He ignored me. I looked at my bags and at the sturdy wooden wagon. I opened my mouth to ask the question, and he said, “¡No!”
“¿Por favor?” He shook his head. I removed the collapsible suitcase dolly from my hanging bag and opened the spring-loaded metal base. The corner of his mouth raised in a smirk. I stacked the suitcases one by one, strapped them on, and pulled the wobbling mess toward the door.

Outside, next to the bustle of a four-lane street, I raised my hand for a taxi. One stopped immediately. A black-beret-wearing driver loaded in my suitcases still slung on my rack. I gave him the pensión address. Once the car started moving, he said, “¿Eres Americana?” How he could tell? His third question was if this was my first time in Barcelona. Taxi drivers are astute observers of people.

¡Olé! –Rebecca

Part 1 Part 2

US Passport. Photo: R. Cuningham

Parte III de Las historias de España de Rebecca

Cuando desperté temprano por la mañana, era con ninguna idea de arquitectura Gaudí o turismo. Mi primer pensamiento era la oficina de carga. Corrí a la primera planta y lo pregunté al recepcionista marcar el número. Ninguna respuesta. Una hora más tarde, a las ocho, un hombre brusco contestó. Tartamudeaba al leer los números de reclamación en español. No están. Caramba, ¿debo volver para el equipaje después?

En nuestro dormitorio, Rachel me tomó de la mano. “No te preocupes. Tienes el resto del día para recoger tus maletas. Vayamos a comer.” Me sentí mejor después de zumo de melocotón, pan caliente con compota, y un café fuerte bajo un parasol rojo. Nada queda desolador después del desayuno.

“Ven a hacer la turista conmigo; cuatro horas hasta que salga mi tren,” me invitó Rachel.
“Creo que me sentirías demasiado nerviosa. Tengo que quedarme cerca de un teléfono,” la dije.
“Por lo menos ando por Las Ramblas conmigo.”
“El tiempo es perfecto…vale, vamos.”
Paseábamos por el peatonal mirando a la gente, las tiendas de artesanía, tiendas de flores y cafés. Las catalanas estaban vestidas muy de moda en conjuntos monocromáticos anaranjados, morados y negros, y con tacones altos. Sospeché que las mujeres que andaban en zapatos de tenis eran turistas.
El sendero mosaico de Las Ramblas cambiaba de líneas diagonales, a losetas sin decoración a un diseño de Miró mural mientras caminábamos. Pensaba en mi problema, mis tripas se enredaron, entonces Rachel señalaba una maravilla nueva. Relajaba hasta la próxima onda. Después de una hora, Rachel miró a su reloj. “Ay, tengo que empacar mi mochila.” Nos volvimos. En camino Rachel compró una girasol . “Es para ti.”

“¡Gracias!” Me levantó el ánimo. La paella, el apoyo, la caminata, y la flor; Rachel supo como hacerme sonreír. ¿Cuál era la providencia divina que la hizo llegar en Barcelona justo cuando llegué yo?
El equipaje si llegará. Verás,” me dijo, tocándome el hombro.
Eso espero.” Si no lleguen la próxima mañana, saldría yo sin las maletas.

[a continuación antes del mediodía miércoles]

Parte 1 Parte 2

Rebecca Cuningham

31 thoughts on “Well Known by the Freight Office?

  1. I love how well you describe the feeling of the freight office. Such a recognizable vibe of not understanding the process or procedure and not being able to communicate about it. Thank goodness the bags came – and the taxi!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Glad that luggage saga sort itself out, finally! Not the greatest to have people who are reluctant to help you with your woes, but you got all of your bags and it was the start of a great adventure!

    Liked by 1 person

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