Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Internet: Our Succor, Our Downfall

Note: As my friend Chiara might put it, Bragança’s Cyber Center found out I was going to break up with it and broke up with me first. I attempted to send this post the morning I picked up our car, but alas failed.

The first day we were in Bragança, we discovered the modern (and modernly architected) Mercado Municipal and our favorite part of it: the Cyber Center. As you know, the WiFi there wasn’t compatible with my computer, but the cord plugging me directly into their network functioned just fine. Anyway, we went every day, and even when we agreed, more or less, that one hour would be enough, we usually stayed two or three.

Well, last night, this inability to control ourselves in the virtual world took its toll.

There’s a parking garage under the Mercado Municipal. The first day we paused as we entered and took a ticket. We discussed whether or not to leave it on the dash or take it with us when we went upstairs; I eventually saw that it said to take it, not leave it in the car. When it came time to leave, we looked around, and realized that the exit gate was open. Then we realized that the entrance gate was open as well, and that evidently all that had led us to take a ticket was our inability to pass a button without pushing it.

Ever after, we entered without taking a ticket.

Last night, several days after our first visit, I noticed that the “Caixa para pagar (box for payment)” wasn’t there under its sign on the wall. Even though there were several signs detailing how much you were to pay for the privilege of parking a mere elevator’s ride from the Cyber Center, there didn’t seem to be any way to do so. Anyway, up we merrily went and spent probably two hours futzing around.

When we were finally done, and, at 9:00pm, starting to get hungry for dinner (I tell you, we have embraced the European eating habits) we went to the elevator to go back down to our car. Even though the elevator was clearly visible on our floor, the door just cracked, it didn’t work.

“I’m not actually sure I’d want to get in it, even if the doors did open,” I said to Ian after we’d pushed the button several times. “But there are some stairs that I saw back this way.”

We took the stairs down, two floors, all the way to the parking garage, and when we arrived there we found—yes, you’re very smart, and you guessed correctly—the garage was closed. Our car was locked in.

In Seattle, when garages are locked at night, either the door will open from the inside when you’re driving out (the Cost Plus garage is an example of this—if you wait until after the attendants go home, you don’t have to pay), or there’s an emergency after hours number you can call that will get your car out (although you have to pay a fine). We looked everywhere; nothing.

I had dimly remembered that the garage was open until 22:00 hours . . . but I had remembered wrong. It was only open until 20:30, and we would’ve made it if we hadn’t been obsessed with gmail and We went back upstairs (fortunately the interior fire doors weren’t locked) and the attendant at the Cyber Center directed us to a taxi rank, and we made our way back to our village by taxi (only €10, including tip).

The driver picked me up this morning and brought me back to the Mercado. It seems that our car wasn’t, in fact, ticketed, and so, after all, no fine!

Unless, of course, you count the €20 taxi fare. I couldn’t tell if the driver was amused, or sorry for us.

Anyway, endless adventures.

By the way, the hotel/salsicharia/restaurant complex where we’ve been staying has been great, even including the weird kitchen. For dinner tonight we had three different sausages and prosciutto, cheese, bread, and a sort of rabbit risotto, and a bottle of excellent red wine. Dessert was homemade blackberry ice cream and samples of different homemade liqueurs—cherry, raspberry, and orange. Yum!

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