Note my poncho. Guenaele also had a poncho similar to mine but had slipped it off a few minutes before this picture was taken. I don't remember precisely, but I'm betting that the person who took the photo was also sporting a poncho.
At the time that photo was taken there were half a dozen in our tour group wearing matching ponchos, though none of us arrived in Spain with the intention of leaving the country with this article of attire.
Note that Sin is not wearing a poncho, but a ponchoesque shirt. Which is actually the punchline of this story.
Anyway, the chain of events that led to the poncho proliferation within our tour group really began before we even arrived in that country.
Now, some of you might recall Sin and Guenaele from my July 3, 2014 post, when I told the story of how I met them in 1971 when I was 20 years old and spending my junior year of college studying French language and culture at the Institut Catholique in Paris.
There was at that time in Paris a Latin American Student organization, UNICLAM, (where I had become one of a number of regular hanger-outers at their office/hang-out) run by a couple of fun Peruvian guys named Cato and Lalo. They'd organized a 2-week bus tour of Italy over Christmas break which I'd gone on and during which I met Sin and Guenaele (again, see post from 7/3/2014).
The Italy tour was such a success that Cato and Lalo decided to organize another 2-week trip over Easter break, this time to southern Spain. Sin, Guenaele and I decided to go.
It turned out that so many people signed up for the Spain trip that Cato and Lalo oversold and then realized that there weren't enough seats on the tour bus for all the passengers.
But the bus they were using had a few backless fold-down bench seats that hinged down from the side of some of the seats into the aisle and so a few days before the trip Cato called me in a panic and asked me if I'd be willing, in exchange for half-price off the trip, to take one of these fold-down benches instead of a bus seat. I jumped on the deal, as did Sin and Guenaele when Cato asked them, too.
And so it came to pass that Sin, Guenaele, Cato, Lalo, and I rode all the way from Paris to Granada, Spain, over 1,000 miles with many stops along the way, crammed onto little fold-down benches in the aisle of the tour bus. Fortunately for us, though, many of our fellow passengers, most of whom were young foreigners like myself studying in Paris, were kind enough to switch seats with us aisle-riders once in a while to give us a little break.
Ah, to be young, good-natured, and flexible!
But back to the poncho story.
There was much excited discussion on the bus about what everyone was looking forward to seeing and doing while in Spain. One subject that seemed to be generating a lot of interest and chat within the group was bargaining. It was said that in the south of Spain bargaining with merchants was a locally-practiced art. Many within our group were looking forward to trying their hand at it and picking up some great bargains.
Not me. To me arguing with a shop-owner over the price of something sounded nerve-wracking. I'd rather just pay the price than have the stress.
But the chatter went on and on as our trip progressed through France, then into Spain where we zigzagged south, briefly visiting the cities of Burgos, Madrid, and Toledo before reaching our destination, the Spanish state of Andalucia, where we'd be visiting the beautiful cities of
No me. All that bargaining talk sounded like the preface to a big headache. I wanted no part of any of it.
Still I followed my comrades Sin and Guenaele through the lovely little streets of Seville until we came across a cute little clothing shop. We entered and began inspecting the wares under the watchful eye of the woman shop keeper.
Ironically, Sin wasn't really interested in anything in the shop and so had no intention of initiating a bargaining session when, while idly leafing through a rack of stripped ponchos, he casually said, "200 pesetas (Spanish money before the euro, about 10 to the dollar at the time, so 200 pesetas was about $20) for these? That's too much!"
The shop keeper, who apparently understood some business French, immediately stepped up and offered a price of 150 pesetas.
Sin, though he had no interest in a poncho, bit the bait and said no, 150 was still too much; which was a mistake, because, as he soon realized, he'd unwittingly entered the bargaining ring and now didn't exactly know how to get out.
The shopkeeper continued lowering the price and Sin's strategy was to just keep telling the shop keeper that the price was too high. But she wouldn't give up, lowering the price until it was down to 80 pesetas, or $8.
When Sin said no to the 80-peseta price the woman caught on that Sin had never been interested in the poncho in the first place and had been merely trifling with her. She turned hostile and pushy, shaking the poncho at Sin and repeating 80 pesetas! 80 pesetas!
Then a big guy came out from behind a curtain at the back of the shop and she began yelling to him and waving her hands at us, and though at the time I didn't understand a word of the language I had a pretty good idea what she was saying. The guy looked none too happy. Sin and Guenaele looked scared and started wandering towards the door.
As for me, I was so nervous my heart was pounding, as I was sure that even if we ran out of the shop the Seville policia would track us down and collar us for, I don't know, breach of bargaining, or something.
I couldn't stand it.
To be continued...