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Out of Gas

We did get a little suspicious the other day when the heating system suddenly came to a standstill.  And when the hot water abandoned us, we understood that something was amiss. Or rather empty. Our hosts had meticulously written down instructions for how to act in such a situation, so I picked up the phone and dialed the number of the gas company. Of course it was after opening hours, as is usually the case on such occasions, so there was only a recorded message telling us the obvious fact, in addition to something about a number we could call in “caso de emergencia”.  A bad hair day can hardly be classified as such, and the dishes seemed to be happy sitting in the sink. So we waited till this morning, and reached a friendly lady who had a command over the English language similar to mine of Spanish, meaning veery poor, but when I hung up, I was fairly convinced there’ll be a man coming over to fix the problem tomorrow morning.

And sure enough, today, promptly at 8 o’ clock two friendly “gas men” showed up. The late bedder and early riser, still uncombed and in  her usual cosy and ruffled morning attire, opened the necessary gates and doors (you  soon get used to handling a loot of keys here, to every front, back and side door, all in addition equipped with a grilled door for protection against intruders…) and the men set about to work. It turned out that all 8 bottler were empty, not a molecule of gas was left. We asked for all of the bottles to be changed, and in the meantime I got up, making myself at least somewhat presentable and met them just as they were finishing the job, and ready for payment.
 It was then I realized that we did not have the necessary means between us for the task, so I told them I’d just pop down to Alfas and pick up some cash there. No worry, I would be back in 10 minutes. I knew the location of a Telebanco  near our local Supermercado and headed for that. Parked the car right outside and hopped out. The Telebanco was forthcoming, accepted my card and took me through all the steps, returned my card (that’s always a relief), and then… nothing. No message of irregularities had been given, the transaction seemed to have gone through, but no money appeared. I waited, and waited. Eventually I realized that it was a lost case, and tried calling a service number kindly provided on the screen. I called the number … and reached an answering machine. It repeated its most likely very informative message in Spanish, over and over again, and just as I was about to hang up a person was on the line. She was friendly enough, but English was not her strongest point, so I grabbed a passing lady and asked her if she could help me. Her English was perfect, her Spanish on the other hand….left a lot to be desired. I kept shouting into the phone “momento, momento, por favor” and looked wildly around me. A man on a motorbike approached, and I ran up to him, pleading with him to help me. He quickly sized up the situation, and the sweet guy, fluent in both languages, took over the phone. He conveyed to me that the bank lady wanted my DNA. I  looked blankly at him. Why on earth did the woman want to know about my genes, did she want to check it towards an international gene bank of notorious conmen or what? It turned out she was talking about my passportnumber, which of course, was in my passport, back at the house. I thanked the man and asked him if he knew of another TB in the neighborhood, to which he answered in the negative, I’ d probably have to go to the next town, Albir. So I set out, preparing myself for a longer drive, and 4 seconds later, I spotted another. I schreeched to a halt, made a u-turn, parked and hopped out. This time the darned banco didn’t even allow me to insert any of my 3 cards. Franticly, I knew the gas men were awating my return, I even tried my library card and my neat little card showing my blood type. After all, there is such a thing as a blood bank, and maybe if the bank drew a little blood from me, I could withdraw some money from the automat.  But it was all to no avail. So back in the car I once more set out for Albir, but now a little wiser, looking left and right, while I was driving. And sure enough, just a few blocks away, there was yet another TB. By now a little skeptical, I inserted one of my cards and went through the procedures. “Transaction not possible”, the screen displayed. It might as well have said “f… off!” I hesitated for a moment and then tried one of my other two cards. Step by step, I followed the instructions veeery carefully, all the while expecting the transaction to stall, the card to be spewed out, or, I wouldn’t put it past it, reach out a boxing glove  and punch me in the face! All the more amazed, I saw the transaction being completed, the card given back to me, and the money materialize.  What happened at the first TB, where the transaction had followed all the normal steps, short of providing me with the money, I don’t know. My favorite scenario is a Spaniard short on funds showing up to withdraw a few Euros and astonished watching money worth of 8 big gas bottles and quite a bit more falling into his unsuspicious lap, an expression of glee spreading over his face.
The gas money was duly handed over, along with a little extra for the long wait, and everybody was happy: The gas men and we, now able to do both dishes our hair, the latter of course feeling more urgent than the other, here in WinterWonderSummerLand.
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