Finally, I’ve made it on to the last of the sequence of trains I need to take to get from central Madrid to Barajas airport. I’ve asked five people how to navigate the metro-cum-Renfe train system and still managed to make one bad turn—exiting the system prematurely and having to get aid to get back through the turnstile without buying another ticket.
Now I’m waiting at the Chamartín station. Suddenly, they change the posted track from Via 11 to Via 14 (Platform 11 to 14). I follow a host of others rushing to the up escalator schlepping luggage to Via 14 with one minute to spare…only to be notified that they’ve changed the track back to Via 11. We charge back in the direction from which we’ve just come.
I make it. I squeeze on the train with my small-but-very-heavy suitcase, others pushing from behind. I sink on a seat by an aisle, perch my suitcase close to my leg, and turn to the man sitting there. “Por favor, Aeroporte Terminal Cuatro?” Please, terminal 4 at the airport? I plead for confirmation in my best broken Spanish.
“Yes, this will take you to the airport,” the man reassures me in English. Oh, I love these urbane multilingual people!
“Thank you,” I say. “I’ve made several wrong turns and I don’t even have the right ticket to be able to get out.”
“Don’t worry,” he says. “There’s always a Renfe staff person there at the exit to assist tourists.”
Again, I sigh with relief and I turn to check my suitcase.
It’s gone! And a young guy across aisle is leering at me. Or so it seems.
What! I open my mouth to shriek or cry or moan. I’ve been so careful about pickpockets and safety the whole time I’ve been in the city. I’ve lugged my laptop computer in my backpack for miles to every museum I’ve visited. How could this happen to me?
Then the young guy points behind me, down the train. I turn. There, several rows away, a man is slowly pushing my suitcase back up the aisle, smiling kindly.
It’s only a case of runaway wheels.
A rush of sweet relief. Once again I remember that really, almost everyone can be trusted. Get over it, Esther, and get into that impressive modern airport.