My time at the farm in Portugal was smooth sailing.
Until I tried to leave.
Ever an optimist about time, I filled every available second leading up to my exodus. Three minutes before the agreed departure time, I returned to the main house to say final goodbyes. The farmer — AKA my ride to the train station — was nowhere to be found. Yikes!
Luckily, I found his wife who informed me the Hungarian farm hand was going to be taking me. Phew!
I knocked on the Hungarian’s cottage door at the very moment of the intended departure time. His lovely Russian girlfriend answered.
“No. He is not here,” she informed me. “Does he know he is driving you? He did not say that to me.”
“I do not know where he has gone. Maybe he is [at a really far away work location]. Let us see.”
The clock in my brain ticked loudly as a small search party formed, wandering between outbuildings. Finally we ended up on the veranda overlooking the orchard, shouting the Hungarian’s name through the tree tops.
The heavy silence swallowed our echoes.
And then a voice answered!
From the most distant work location on the other side of the valley.
I paced and chatted nervously as we waited for him to cover the ground between us and the van.
Finally we were jumping in the car, slamming doors, and scrambling for seatbelts. We’d burned ten of our twenty minutes meant for driving. Hurry, hurry, hurry!
The Hungarian raced down the driveway, barely pausing to check for cross traffic at the main road. As he accelerated onto the asphalt, he asked the Russian girlfriend and I:
“Which one of you knows where the train station is?”
Then laughter. (Mine.)
“Don’t worry,” he says. “We will find it. Surely, it is easy.”
Our bodies careened from side to side as he took corners at the highest speed possible. Fields flew by, then little farmlets, and eventually the freeway entrance. We sped to the town exit, finally slowing as we approached the main square.
My eyes darted about searching for train station signage. I don’t speak Portuguese, but my Spanish is a good enough substitute. However, it was still useless: not a single driver-info sign existed to translate!
The Hungarian said,
Great idea, but who? Not a pedestrian in sight!
We turned down a random side street and spotted a blonde woman walking down the otherwise deserted cobblestone lane. We slowed and rolled up alongside her at walking pace.
“Excuse me,” the Hungarian said in English, “Can you tell us where is the train station?”
I couldn’t tell if the panic in her eyes stemmed from being asked to speak a foreign language or being accosted in an empty lane by a rough-looking vehicle. When she did an abrupt 180 and walked away without responding, I decided on the former.
I started praying that trains run late in Portugal.
Our next pedestrian invited inquiry AND spoke English! But”¦ was also a foreign visitor with no knowledge of the train station location.
We drove down a deserted village street.
We drove down another one.
We drove down a third one and crossed paths with a man in a golf cap. Again, in English, the Hungarian asked for the train station. The man’s eyes lit up with understanding, but his mouth froze against the challenge of English. He started rattling off languages, trying to find a shared one. As the Hungarian shook his head “no” to each one, he shifted back into gear, ready to move on.
Suddenly I heard “Espanol?” and nearly clawed my way out the driver’s side window, shouting “Yes! Spanish! Me, me, me! I speak Spanish!”
I listened intently as the golf-capped gentlemen gave us directions down a street we wouldn’t have chosen. I hurriedly repeated them back, and we thanked him as we rushed away.
Two streets later we all began to wonder if I’d misheard the directions. We found ourselves in an industrial area with lots of dead ends. That I would miss the train, and therefore my flight to Brussels, and therefore my flight to Miami, and therefore my flight to Phoenix seemed a foregone conclusion.
Suddenly we came to the T-junction the man had promised. We took a right”¦
”¦ and saw the train station 100 meters down the road!
The Hungarian flew into a parking spot, we jumped out, raced down the stairs and crossed under the tracks to the only platform with waiting passengers.
“Yes, this is the train to Lisbon. No, it hasn’t arrived yet.”
All of us panted and laughed and swapped goodbyes as the train approached on the horizon.
Made it by a cool three minutes!
Happy Traveling, y’all! â™£
Half the Clothes’ author does not recommend being a time optimist… if you can help it. While this trait is deeply embedded in her character, she’s happy her wily ways may provide some entertainment. More time-optimist mishaps here, here, and here. And here.