I'm always on high alert when I travel overseas. Kind of ironic for a Joburger, I know. I think it’s some kind of Moonbag Mentality of “they rob you over there”. It was instilled by my mother when I was a teen and it's somehow never left me. Arriving in Barcelona the other day was no exception. I was only meeting up with friends later in the day, so I was traveling into the city alone and was thus on extra high alert.
Natalie, Angel, Barcelona
We'd reserved an apartment on-line, and, as the first to arrive, I had to collect the keys and pay the agent. I had dutifully sms'ed the agent – one "Lorgia" – to up-date her on my arrival in Paris. I then let her know once I’d touched down in Barcelona. I informed her once I'd picked up my bags. And then I sent her a last little sms reminder that I was in a taxi, on my way to the apartment. Just to be sure that I wasn't left standing on a street corner waiting for her.
Well, my plan completed back-fired. When I reached the apartment entrance, Lorgia was nowhere to be seen and I was indeed confined to the street corner with two big-ass suitcases, looking like a homeless person. Nice.
Absolutely no sign of Lorgia and no answer from her cell.
To make matters worse, an annoying little man kept sticking his head out of the window above me, trying to chat me up in Spanish. He was also signaling that he’d open the entrance door for me, but I was having none of it. I was a street-wise Saffer and there was no ways I was going to fall for his offers to let me into the building while I waited for bl**dy Lorgia. I would just wait patiently (okay, impatiently) in my sweaty, stinky travel clothes, in the boiling sun for this woman.
Eventually the silly cow answered her phone. When I told her that yes, I was outside the apartment building, as arranged, she seemed genuinely surprised. She then told me she’d let me in. “OMG!!!” I thought, “She’s been INSIDE the whole friggin’ time. Grrrrr”.
Next thing, the entrance door was buzzed open. I stepped inside and nearly collided with the annoying little man. “Oh God – you again,” I thought, but he was bustling around me so I decided I would let him drag my two humungous suitcases up the stairs. Not my problemo if he wanted to be so ingratiating. I just needed to find Lorgia and then I’d get rid of him.
He seemed to be moving my bags with purpose and because I had no clue which apartment this woman was meeting me in, I confess I kind of followed him. Straight into an apartment. Which turned out to be empty – i.e. no Lorgia.
Now I was alone with the annoying little man who was suddenly not only annoying but also completely freaking me out. Where was Lorgia? "Donde esta Lorgia, dude?" To which he replied that he was Lorgia’s colleague and that I needed to give the rental money to him, not to Lorgia.
“Ja, RIGHT, dude! Do you seriously think I was born yesterday?” Okay, that's what I wanted to say except that those words don’t form part of my miniscule Spanish vocabulary. Plus I was locked into an apartment with 40kg of luggage in a completely foreign city so perhaps it wasn’t good to antagonise the man…
I managed to get across the notion that Lorgia had NOT told me I would be meeting with a “colleague” of hers. So, until he could provide some kind of proof that he was Lorgia's colleague, he wouldn’t be seeing one single cent from me. Of course, if he was a full-on baddy and not just a con artist, then he could always just whack me over the head and grab my hand-bag but I was holding thumbs that he was an first tier criminal and not into knives, etc.
“Me llamo Angel,” he said (pronouncing the first syllable “an” like the “un” in “under” and the second syllable “gel”, like the first part of the Afrikaans word geld – i.e. with a hard “g”. ) That was his proof? Telling me that he was named after a religious symbol? I gave him a look that said “you’re gonna have to do better than that, buddy boy” and tried to look super hardcore, when inwardly, I was petrified. Had I survived the streets of Joburg only to be conned/ mugged by a guy named “Angel” in Barcelona?
After about an hour of Angel saying his name and insisting that he was Lorgia’s colleague and me giving him the death stare, the elusive Lorgia eventually returned our 17 missed calls. She confirmed that yes, Angel was her errand man and I could safely hand him my cash. Er…thanks for letting me know, lady!
So that's how we ended the staring stand-off. Angel handed over the keys, I handed over the cash and he shuffled off into the streets of Barcelona.
It took three days before I was convinced that he wasn’t coming back to raid the apartment with his spare keys. Seriously, though, can you really trust a dude called Angel?
Apparently you can but I wasn’t taking any chances.