Let me tell you about my daily commute to school in Barcelona.
• At 7:45 a.m., I emerge from my apartment building (into semi-light) and turn left.
• Walk half a block.
• Turn left again.
• Walk seven blocks (past two dangerously seductive bakeries) to train station.
• Descend flight of stairs to underground TMB station, go through turnstiles.
• Run down another long stairwell to platform where I wait for the last car of the train.
• Board packed train at 7:52 a.m. I must peel off my sweater or coat as it is always hot even on the coldest day of winter – but, in doing so I cannot take my hand off my purse!
• The train ride is 6 to 8 minutes long. If I get lucky and get the 7:52 a.m. train, there is just one stop on my part of the route but it comes with the pushing of people getting off the train and those getting on… and other people plowing through that traffic to get to newly abandoned seats. (Sometimes I am one of the passengers scrambling for a seat. It depends on how warm I am that day).
• I exit the train and line up to get on the escalator but, because I have chosen to ride on the least cramped car of the train, I am the farthest from the exit and must line up for the escalator ride.
• Exit TMB system through turnstiles, turn right, run up a flight of stairs.
• Catch quick glimpse of blue sky as I run half a block for the bus that is sometimes pulling up to the stop as I emerge from underground.
• Ride extremely crowded city bus up a sweat-producing, outfit-ruining hill with other teachers and students who feel similarly about running up that hill.
• Exit bus at last stop and wait for light to cross majorly crazy-fast intersection.
• Run up another flight of stairs.
• Walk two blocks to corner.
• Turn left, walk half a block, enter code into key pad on the outer gate to my campus.
• Cross patio and unlock the front door of my building (I am sometimes the first one here).
• Turn on lights.
• Climb two more flights of old wooden stairs. Bang bang bang,
• Unlock my office.
This trip is my own personal Odyssey. Crossed with Dante’s Inferno.
I have praised Barcelona’s public transit system and will continue to defend it with passion but this particular ride… this walk, train, run, bus, walk, school… leaves me exhausted and grouchy at the beginning of my school day. And the real problem, of course, is that I am an infamous head sweater of long-standing. When I begin the commute, my face is a bit pink from rushing around the apartment getting ready. It is absolutely red by the time I reach the train station and, as the train makes its way towards school, beads of perspiration begin to form on my nose and forehead. Other commuters look at me anxiously and wonder if I am about to have a heart attack. By the time I board the bus I am actually sweating. One day, in FEBRUARY, I fogged up an entire window of the bus by leaning my over-heated self against the window. I turned to DP and asked, “Is that me? Am I doing that?” He nodded. I am like a character in X-Men; I can melt glaciers into expensive bottled water with my body heat.
Imagine what May and June will bring!
Last year I took the school bus each day but, sadly, teachers are no longer able to ride it. Had I never known the simplicity of a short walk to the bus stop and the straight shot to school, I might not be filled with such despair now.
Our colleague Margarita lives quite close to us in Gracia and, at some point during the first semester, mentioned that she would be happy to give us a lift to school anytime we like. Just after the Christmas break, I started to think/dream about her offer. She leaves Gracia at the same time as we do so it’s really ideal but for some weird reason, I kept not asking. One million things would get checked off my “TO DO” list in an average work day but not this simple little conversation with a lovely colleague. I would mention it to DP and he would say, “Yes, you should speak with her about it. She offered.” I would nod and then somehow not get around to it.
Last Thursday at lunch, Margarita and I were sitting together and, finally, I sighed and said, “I don’t want you to feel like you have to decide right now but I was wondering…”
“Do you want to come in to school with me?”
“Well, yes, but I don’t want you to feel…”
“I leave at 7:50 most days and 7:35 on Tuesdays and some Fridays… we can meet right outside my parking garage. Do you want to start tomorrow?”
Just like that (okay, the conversation was slightly longer but only because I kept protesting that she didn’t need to decide right then), I was sprung from my own personal public transit purgatory.
On Friday, I climbed into Margarita’s candy apple red Land Rover and she drove me to school. At no point did I have to exit the vehicle and get into another. There was no running to make it on time nor was there any pushing to get a seat. Margarita and I were lit up by the sunlight streaming through puffy cumulus clouds. We chatted about life. I did not sweat. At all.
I should have remembered that in order for the universe to give me what I needed, I had to ask first. Thanks, Margarita!