Madrid, I don’t know how to quit you. Or vice versa, as the case may be.

Today. Is. So. Fired.

Today really started yesterday, when I got very sick late in the evening. (I was feeling more or less — maybe less — okay, then had paella and a half pitcher of sangria. In my defense…. paella!) This morning, when I woke up short on sleep, the thought of ingesting anything made me wince.

Oddly enough for us, The Rocket Scientist and I left for the airport a few minutes before schedule. I thought this was a good omen. Hah!

RS dropped me off at Terminal 2, and I proceeded to the TAP Portugal counter. Pursuant to his instructions, I requested that my bags be checked all the way through SFO. (I had a paid ticket to Oporto, and then a reward ticket from Oporto to SFO.) The young man at the counter did so, then seemed confused, then frustrated, and then he brought in his colleagues, and  after half an hour I was sent on my way.

Because of  my fibromyalgia, I ask for mobility assistance at airports. I can walk, but I am very slow, and my capacity for walking through long concourses is limited, especially if I want to be able to function at the other end. This applies to international travel in spades. The way that Madrid handles mobility assistance is that people are brought to a waiting area until their gate opens. I was parked at the waiting area near my gate, only to be told that the plane is delayed.

A young woman with the mobility assistance team took my passport and boarding pass and left. I hate when people do that — I get nervous in foreign airports without my passport. She returned a few minutes later, took a deep breath, and explained in broken English that the plane from Madrid to Oporto was so late I was going to miss my connecting flight to Newark.

I was concerned but calm. I also have a bridge in Brooklyn I need to talk to you about.

True, I only freaked out a little bit, but I did freak out. (I feel really sorry for this young woman. She was hung out to dry by the TAP gate agents, who should have been the ones to tell me in the first place that the connection was going to be a problem. For one thing, they spoke much better English than she did.) She and her colleague patted my hand and brought  me a glass of water, and I felt quite abashed.

One of the issues that has been plaguing me all this trip has been language gaps. I have them in English, and I might as well not be able to speak even tourist Spanish, as I can’t retain even the basic phrases. I can manage “gracias” and “por favor” and that’s about it. I am very hit or miss on “losiento” and “hola.” Towards the end of my stay I had mostly gotten down “salida” and “aseos.” On previous trips, I had developed a vocabulary of about thirty or so words, not including place names. I am down to, on a good day, six, as long as I remember to say “gracias” (with the appropriate Castilian lisp) rather than “grazie.” Being all alone in a country where I can’t make heads or tails of the language, running on three hours of sleep and no food and next to no water was a recipe for disaster for me.

That said, I have for the most part enjoyed this trip; for three quarters of it I was either in London, where language was of course no problem, or around someone who spoke at the worst fluent and at the best native Spanish. The past few days I have not been by myself, either; even though RS does not speak Spanish either, he has a good grasp of tourist phrases.

So after I calmed down (and my freak-outs tend to be of the sniffling and crying slightly variety, not the yelling variety), a couple of mobility gentlemen came and we got my previously checked luggage and headed to the TAP counter. I was not alone — about four other families were stranded who had connections that they needed to make. My case was complicated because of the duel ticket situation. TAP was going to put me up in a hotel for one night, and then United could find me something tomorrow.

Uh, no. The earliest United could send me out was on Wednesday (albeit from Madrid, not Oporto). I had managed to retain my composure enough to firmly request (just short of demand) that TAP relax their rules and spring for two nights hotel room, rather than the one that they claimed they could authorize. I was successful, and am now ensconced in a hotel for the next 32 hours.

We left the place we were staying at 6:45, arrived at the airport at 7:15. I left the airport six-and-a-half hours later. That’s six-and-a-half hours of my life I’ll never get back. Good times.

But it could certainly be worse. Nobody died and nobody went to jail, and at best I can tool around Madrid tomorrow (I like the city busses) and at worst I can sleep. I get meal vouchers from the hotel, although quite honestly I don’t think I’ll be eating anytime soon. (Even before last night, the Spanish diet heavy in meat (it must be a terrible country for vegetarians) was beginning to pall.)

Not to mention that all the chocolate we were bringing back is in my luggage, and I think that certainly counts as emergency rations, don’t you?

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