I had it all mapped out. Literally. I had marked on a map which metro stops to get off at and then queued up on my iphone maps to each school I had intended to drop off my CV. I figured in that afternoon, I could make it to five schools. I pushed my ticket through the turnstile machine and walked down the stairs to where I assumed the correct metro was. Where I needed to alight the metro several stops away I had memorized. Some of the schools were in complete opposite directions of each other but I just accepted that part of job searching is going far and wide. I sat down on the metro and paid attention to each stop. However, I didn’t recognize the first stop, nor the second. I asked the women sitting across from me if this metro went to La Sagrera. One of them told me no this was the train, only the metro goes there. Wait, what? She explained to me that there are trains and metros and that we were on the train. I knew I looked dismayed as the other woman kindly said, you must have so much patience in a new city. She explained to me that I should just return to where I got on and start over on the metro. The man sitting across the way piped in and said to me, don’t worry I’ve done the exact same thing before too. He smiled reassuringly.
I thanked all of them and got off at the next stop and took the train back to my starting point. Forty minutes later I was back where I started feeling frustrated and sweating profusely because it’s really quite hot in the underground. I decided to skip the one school in the very opposite direction from all the rest and reroute. I could go to that one another day. I was trying to work my way from the farthest school to the nearest. I didn’t see a metro stop at the farthest school but I figured I would get off as close as I could and then take a taxi or walk the half hour more. When I got out of the metro and walked up the stairs my spider senses kicked in. I didn’t feel as though I was in the best part of town. It certainly wasn’t awful looking but it was distressed looking for sure. It was my second day in Barcelona and I had only seen the city center which is like a nicely coiffed hairdo, this neighborhood was like a frazzled haircut, perhaps not receiving a proper washing in ages. A bit of dust and grime in the roots.
My heart quickened as I started walking in a random direction trying to find a cab. It’s not that I felt particularly unsafe, I just felt very out of place, like everyone knew I kind of had no idea where I was. Walking the span of three blocks, I got catcalled during the procession of each block. I don’t care what country I’m in, I loathe being catcalled. It only fueled my apprehension and exasperation. I hailed the first cab I finally saw and leaned in through the passenger side to tell him where I needed to go. He had no idea where the street was and refused to take me there. Tears of frustration pricked my eyes as I stepped back onto the curb. All I wanted to do was leave this neighborhood, return to the room I was renting and erase this afternoon. I turned around and made my way back up the same street, crossing to the other side in the hopes of avoiding the catcallers I would have to pass again in order to get to the metro station.
I consulted my metro map and figured I could go to at least two schools that afternoon that were very clearly near metro stations. I’m a big fan of making goals, even tiny daily ones like dropping off five CVs. Because I already knew that wasn’t going to happen I sat on the metro holding back tears, angry with Barcelona, annoyed with the public transportation system that seemed a giant mystery to me and feeling like I had somehow failed in my mission that day. I put sunglasses on as I sat on the metro so people wouldn’t see me tearing up. I felt as though everyone was looking at me thinking I was one of those self-important people who wear their sunglasses in places where it is so unnecessary, like the metro, that they just look ridiculous. Which was worse: wearing sunglasses on the metro or letting the tears gush forth?
I managed to find two schools that day and now, two days later, I can laugh at this whole situation. I’ve had much more harrowing experiences like crossing the Mexican border into Guatemala. This wasn’t even in the same realm at all. But when you are new to a city and know absolutely no one, the smallest roadblocks can feel like the biggest hurdles to overcome. I’ve never lived in a big city, I wanted to give it a shot mostly because I know when I eventually return to the states, I want to live way out in the country. So here in Spain, I have absolutely romanticized the notion of living in Barcelona to the fullest and I felt betrayed somehow on Friday. In retrospect, I now know that there are not only metros and trains, but trams as well. I’ve now studied a map more intensely than before to get the lay of the land of public transportation as best I can. I’m thankful for the three people on the train who were nothing but friendly and empathetic. Despite the near meltdown on the metro I made it out ok and reflecting on it now, it really wasn’t so bad. Perhaps it’s a rite of passage here. Welcome to Barcelona, enjoy your stay, that is if you can figure out the underground transit.