Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Hell is other people. In the Madrid airport.

So the trip started out fairly smoothly.  My flight wasn’t canceled, we got to the airport with plenty of time, and the Iberia airline people only charged me $75 for my bike instead of the theoretical $100 it was supposed to cost. Which I guess makes up for the fact that the Alaska Airlines people on the Portland-Chicago leg overcharged me by $20. Grr.


That is, all was rosy until I got to my layover in Madrid. Where I get off the plane, and see three signs: exit, baggage, gates. Okay, so follow my logic here: I go to “gates,” because I have a connecting flight. Crazy, right?

Apparently so, because for the next hour, I wind up taking the tram back and forth between terminals, while also going through passport control and security check a couple of times for good measure. And clearly I’ve gotten spoiled by the smiley niceness that is Portlandia, because everyone here is downright surly.
Me, asking a gate agent with info on connecting flights which is the gate to Marrakesh: Do you know which gate is for Marrakesh?
Gate agent from hell, pausing to deliver this with just the right amount of disdain: No.

Everyone else also has the same look of self-righteous disgust. What happened to my Portland people smiling at everything and everyone?? I start to dream of being back home, where it’s all sunshiney (I mean rainy) and rainbows and unicorns and food trucks and such. Even when I get on the plane, it’s more of the same – the Spanish woman sitting next to me glaring at me every time I cough. I’m tempted to cough in her general direction just to annoy her. Hmph. A friend has suggested I wear a mask, ala Michael Jackson, but the only Jackson look I can do is the one glove thing, which I don’t think will have the same effect.

Then I get to Marrakesh, where I wind up with passport control woman from hell. First she wants to see my boarding passes, as she doesn’t seem to believe that I came from Chicago. Then she wants my entire itinerary and all the hotels I’ll be staying at. I get through that, and finally get my bike box…..which has been opened by the TSA and not closed properly. Lovely. And since I didn’t sleep on the planes, now I’m REALLY surly, and counting down the days until I can get back to my beloved Portland to hang out with The Kone. Morocco, bah. Whose crazy idea was this anyway?

That evening

After napping for a few hours, Stacey and I decide to head to the main square for some sightseeing. It’s a gorgeous night, balmy, as we amble along Mohammed Ave. Suddenly, I stop and grab Stacey’s arm:

Me: Hey Stacey, just look at that building! It must have been modeled after the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas! It looks exactly like it!

Stacey’s face gets all twisty and scrunched – a seizure of some sort, perhaps? – so I hustle us along until there we are, at the market square. Now it’s like something out of Disneyworld!

We wander through the crowds, checking out the pigeon handlers, the ball throwers, and above all else, the amazing booths loaded with hundreds of kinds of dates (note: all my friends are likely to get dates as souvenirs), all sorts of fruit, and of course tchochke central. We stop and have what we think is mint tea, though it’s actually ginger tea strong enough to take the tar off one’s tongue. At one point the tea cart guy sprinkles some kind of white powder into our glasses, and we wonder what the powder is. Cocaine, I wonder? Rather, some kind of minty substance.  And while Stacey wonders how they clean the tea glasses, I don’t have the heart to tell her that they seem to just be dunking them in a bucket of hot water. “Oh, I’m sure they have some kind of complex mechanism for washing the glasses to standard, absolutely!”

Sometimes you just need to MSU.

After a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice for the equivalent of .50, and then a lovely dinner of tagine and couscous, which sets us back a whole $12, we wander back to the hotel for a fitful night’s sleep, given that it cools off quite a bit at night and there’s no heat in the room. En route, we dodge cars and scooters aplenty, as unlike in Portland, there is NO stopping for pedestrians here. None. Zero. Zilch.

Needless to say, Morocco is amazing.

Today's near death misses: 2, from foolishly thinking that pedestrians ever have the right of way

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