It all started in Portugal.
My friend Anna and I were in Lisbon one weekend (we were studying abroad in Spain, so it’s not that random, I promise) just to get away from the hurly-burly of daily life in Madrid.
(If you have ever been to Spain or know anything about their lifestyle, you ought to get the irony in that last sentence.)
Anyway. So, we were in Lisbon, Portugal, which, by the way, is SKETCH. It was pouring down rain and it was the middle of February, so it wasn’t exactly what I’d call toasty outside. We’d been wandering around for a couple hours trying to find something – I can’t remember exactly what – but we couldn’t figure out where we were, because the Portuguese? NOT FANS OF ROAD SIGNS.
And any road signs we did happen to find didn’t correspond with our map.
Yes. Very unhelpful when one is stuck in a foreign city in the middle of the freezing, rainy night.
Finally we ducked into a small restaurant to get some soup, hoping to thaw ourselves out before the situation turned into the Aspen scooter scene in Dumb and Dumber. Our waiter that evening was very charming and asked us where we were from.
“The U.S.,” I said, like an idiot. (Did I mention this was 2003 and everyone hated Americans?)
As soon as the words were out of my mouth, I knew I’d made a mistake. Usually I knew better and would say I was Canadian, or, if I was feeling especially confident and was in a country other than Spain, I’d pretend to be from Madrid. But not this time. No, no. I just up and confessed to my true nationality.
Everything was fine until the check came. I believe it was somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 Euro.
For two bowls of soup that cost something like 3 Euro apiece.
There were charges on there I couldn’t even begin to decipher, but I do remember a “seating fee” of 7 Euro. Now, keep in mind we’d been wandering the streets for hours in the cold and we were NOT in the mood to be ripped off. Not that one is ever in the mood for that, but there are times I’m more capable of handling it than others, and I was not capable at that moment. Not at all.
To make a long story short, Anna and I hung around for a long time to talk to our waiter about the check, but when he never showed up again we left what we really owed and got the heck out of Dodge.
I’d just told her, as we were booking it down the street, that I thought we were in the clear – when I felt a hand on my elbow. An angry hand.
The next few minutes were filled with multiple expletives, some in Portuguese, some in Spanish. There was a lot of gesturing and shouting by me, Anna, and the waiter. Then there was a cell phone poised to call the Lisbon police, and then there was me handing the man his stinking money.
(I know you’re all probably disappointed I gave in, but let’s review: American. Hated by everyone. Portuguese prison. Episodes of Locked Up Abroad starring yours truly. I think I made the right move.)
Anna and I miraculously managed to locate our hostel and, settling in for the night, rehashed our middle-of-the-street verbal brawl.
“Who was that other guy?” Anna asked at one point.
I gave her a funny look. “You mean the waiter? Would’ve thought you recognized him.”
“No,” she said. “The other guy. The one that just stood there, in the blue coat.”
“There wasn’t another guy,” I told her with a look that clearly added “you lunatic” on the end. “It was just you, me, and the waiter.”
But she insisted there was another guy. And you know what? I believe her. Because it was Ted.
And now you’re wondering who Ted is, right? Well, ladies and gentlemen, Ted is my guardian angel. (Or possibly Anna’s, but we’re going to say he’s mine for the sake of this post.) He’s made a few other appearances when I’ve gotten myself into a bind; sometimes I notice him, but usually he stays invisible. There have been times I should have been in a lot of trouble one way or another and escaped unscathed. Times I needed something pretty miraculous to happen right away and it did. Times I should have been in a car accident but managed to avoid it with no clue how it happened. Should have been mugged but wasn’t. Should have gotten injured but didn’t.
So, a day without Ted? Would be a sad day indeed.
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