Friday, November 14, 2014

The thing about GPS navigation systems...

is that they don’t work underground.

I was pretty nervous about driving in Madrid. From my first visit years ago, I recalled massive multi-lane boulevards packed with traffic and gigantic lawless roundabouts, neither of which I cared to traverse in a tiny stick-shift with a dubious insurance policy.

Still, we opted to return our car at the Atocha train station, just blocks away from our airbnb apartment. Upside: No timely/costly transportation from the airport. Downside: Risking life and limb on four motorized wheels in the heart of the city.

Question: Have you ever experienced an entire freeway system, complete with interchanges and exits, UNDERGROUND? Me either. So imagine my surprise when we casually enter a tunnel, and don’t see the light of day again for 15 minutes. That’s enough time to get really, really lost, as my GPS freezes worthlessly.

Each time we’d find ourselves back at street-level, the navigation system would re-calculate our route and inevitably send us underground again. Then, dutifully, stop working. We drove around like this for well over a half hour, as the minutes until our car was due ticked by. It was SO much fun, let me tell you. A real riot.

We finally managed to escape the maze and, hallelujah, find the train station. And that’s when the fun REALLY started!

We pulled in at arrivals. We pulled in at departures. We pulled into the taxi waiting area. We pulled into long-term parking. Every visible entrance of the station lead us to the wrong place, and every time we exited we’d be dumped into the largest roundabout in the city. When common sense didn’t get us there, we turned back to technology and entered every possibility we could think of… searching by the name of the train station, the name of the car rental facility, via points of interest, via “rental car return locations”. Nada. By now we had five minutes until we’d be charged for a late return, and I was ready to just throw my hands up and drive off a bridge.

Moments before we ended up on the evening news, we spotted a teeny, tiny, adorable little sign pointing us to where we needed to be. We screeched into the lot with seconds to spare. Nobody at the facility spoke English, so they were spared my angry tirade. We dusted off our hands and walked away from that car feeling at once light and free. Nothing but the bags on our back and our own two feet. 

And those f*ckers charged me for the extra day after all.

1 comment:

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