I’ve talked before about working in travel and what goes wrong when you don’t check the details carefully. If you haven’t read my post about being lost in Corsica (and you fancy a giggle), then head over.
However, let me take you back to my days of repping. As I have mentioned previously, I was a holiday rep back in my mis-spent youth. My first resort was the lovely Costa del Sol. Torremolinos, Benelmadena, Nerja, Fuengirola, Marbella and Mijas. I loved it.
I spoke no Spanish except for “Gracias” upon arrival but I was assured this would not be a problem on the Costa del Sol. I arrived with my phrase book and a willingness to learn!
Soon I had a set of apartments to look after and thankfully, a great team of staff at the reception. There were three receptionists, all called Antonio. Easy! They were really lovely guys and when I said I wanted to learn Spanish, they were very enthusiastic. They would teach me a few phrases – basic things such as “how are you”, “how are the guests”, etc – and then after a day or two of getting the pronounciation right, they would insist I spoke these phrases in Spanish and would not respond if I said them in English. It was a great way to learn.
They also took great delight in teaching me how to swear fluently in Spanish – a skill I still proudly possess.
As a new rep, cars were not an option so public transport was needed. At the time, some of the buses did not have bells (or they didn’t work) so I wanted to be able to shout “stop the bus, please” and I turned to Antonios 1, 2 & 3. They had been so helpful in the past, I had always been given the correct phrase and it always worked. It never crossed my mind to check!
Check and Check again
What can I tell you?
They set me up.
Antonio 2 told me I had to shout “Quitas las bragas”. Now, as a non Spanish speaker, this sort of made sense to me. Quitas would mean Stop/Quit and I presumed las bragas meant Bus. Yes, the key word there is “presumed” – I did not check.
When I checked with Antonios 1 and 3 if I had the pronounciation correct, they nodded in agreement with what I thought was a big smile at my pronounciation and willingness to learn.
So the next day, I got on the bus with a spring in my step, sitting next to a very lovely old Spanish man. As you do, when you are learning a new language, I sat muttering the phrase under my breath, deciding if the emphasis should be on Quitas or Las or Bragas. I decided Quitas was the one for me! The little old Spanish man kept giving me strange looks and moving closer to the window.
As we approached my stop, I stood up and shouted “Quitas las bragas, por favor” in a loud and proud voice.
Everyone turned and stared. I thought they were just impressed that I was speaking the language. The bus stopped. I got off and as the bus passed me, every single passenger was looking out of the window at me with a big smile on their face. I was so proud of myself. I was almost native!
I walked into the reception and along with Antonio 2, the Manager of the property was there.
I told Antonio what I had done, asking if he was proud of me. The Manager choked and then started to laugh. And laugh. And laugh.
Yes, ladies and gents, I had been stitched up.
For those who do not speak Spanish (and have not checked yet), Quitas las bragas translates to “Get your knickers/pants off”!
Yes, I had sat next to some poor old Spanish man and muttered “get your pants off” for a 20 minute journey! I make myself feel slightly better by telling myself that at least I added “please” to the end of every mutter!
I would like to say that I learned a valuable lesson that day but I didn’t.
I went on to get lost in Corisca, get seriously lost in France (where the lingo is definitely required), get on a private coach trip which I thought was a public bus (another story for another day), get escorted over a busy road in Cairo by a local old woman and then had to get her to cross me back over, get lost in Goa, get lost in Venice and I still take the scenic route on almost every road trip.
I am notoriously bad at leaving everything until the last minute and not allowing myself time to check details but we can safely say, life is never dull.