Last year, I visited 12 countries, as many airports, and was only denied a stamp in my passport on one occasion. But you’d think this means I’m a dam hand at navigating airports, right? Nope. On the contrary, I can never remember which airport is which, and I haven’t visited many airports more than twice. However, on arrival at Barcelona, it all comes flooding back… I land in T1 and remember that the train to Sants goes from T2 (I flew in/out of there last time), and there’s a shuttle bus going round the terminals (the driver of which has little personality or much senses of humour when it comes to confusing his passengers, especially those wanting to board his busy bus with their bicycles), and when you get into T2 there’s a raised walkway to take you across to the station (which has a decidedly musty smell and a very uneven floor), and that said walkway is accessed from the end of the check-in hall (which I walked up and down at least twice last time, looking for the way through to security) and the automated ticket machines are a far better bet than queuing at the wrong ticket booth, twice.
So I get to the station without looking at a sign or asking for directions. I feel pleased with myself and, in the daring hope that I’m blending in as a local, I suddenly have a pang of sympathy for the poor chap in front of me, who can’t fathom how to get the ticket machine to display in English, even though he’s pressed the button with flags on it? He stands and stares at the machine, confusion building on his face, and I can just see the cogs turning in his head. “I pressed the button but nothing changed? Maybe if I press it again, it’ll work. Maybe I didn’t press it hard enough?” He’s still confused, and whilst it’s amusing trying to guess what he’s thinking, the queue behind us is building. So I give up on my attempt not to appear a foreigner, and I explain that every time he presses the button, the small word at the top of the screen is changing to say “Product combinations” in various languages. When he recognises the English variant, he also clocks that the buttons have also changed, and one of these says “other tickets”. He selects this and he’s off… no really, he’s giving up and going to a booth! Don’t do it! They’ll trick you! They’ll wait until you’re at the front of the queue then tell you you need to be at a different booth! Trust me! No? Tempted to watch his unfortunate episode continue, I simply buy my ticket and wander off down to the platform.
After not too long, the train pulls in, I board and find a seat. We’re only minutes into our journey, when I hear what sounds like Clouseau tuning up his strat… ah I’d forgotten about this from the airport train last time – serenade from an old chap playing a violin. He’s actually quite good! Not convinced the passengers around him are too interested though; most are wearing headphones and probably listening to One Direction or Enrique. Oh hang on, he’s changing his style… he’s gone from Vivaldi’s Autumn, to something vaguely resembling Bach’s Toccata & Fuge… Is he trying to wake everyone up, or simply demonstrate his skills? Not sure but he’s also trying the classic lean in tactics too, to make sure the people he’s serenading are aware he’s there. Meanwhile they’re trying desperately to ignore that he’s there, so they don’t feel obliged to hand over any money! It reminds me of Manuel and Polly entertaining the guests at Fawlty Towers on gourmet night when Basil dives out for a duck!