Monthly Archives: February 2014


“How do you say ‘hangover’ in Spanish?”
“No Idea. Food and Coffee. STAT.”

This whole thing started when I decided it was a good idea to have a party a few hours before I got on a plane to Spain.

At the time, I was living in Ireland on a “study” “abroad” trip and my cousins came over for the night. Read: disaster… or as they say in Ireland, “the craic.”

We’ll just skip the particulars of that evening except to say that we drank a lot of wine. Looking back on it from The Future, it was the night that everything happened though it seemed at the time like nothing much happened at all. It was the night from which we would come to learn “we’ll never see these people again” was not a good motto. No, no, you will see people you should never see again on roof tops on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, years later in the middle of The Quays bar in Galway, and pretty much everywhere… multiple times. It was the night that some of our favorite sayings, such as “the nature times” and “just go with it, it’s funnier that way,” came into hilarious being. It was also the night before Martha and I were probably almost murdered in Madrid.

We were in bed by 9:30 p.m.

Next thing I knew, my alarm was going off at 3 a.m. and I had to get on a plane. After shoving a grand total of two outfits into my backpack, I made the one-minute trek across the lawn to Martha’s flat. I put on a kettle and prepared the breakfast of champions – tea and cookies – while she packed. I believe the conversation we had, regarding our astounding preparedness, consisted mostly of groans and grunts, but we understood.

The flight from Dublin to Madrid was a little over 2 hours. Two-plus hours of deep, deep struggle.

I had been to Spain four years earlier at the age of sixteen. On that flight the attendant was really nice to my group of friends. He gave us brownies and milk because we couldn’t sleep on the flight and, apparently, it was “shocking to meet American kids who weren’t a bunch of jerks.” I like baked goods and backhanded compliments, so I was pretty excited about Spain.

This flight was less exciting. Have you ever been hungover at 30,000 feet with TortureLights™ flickering on and off as flight attendants try to sell things to you?

RyanAir Flight Attendant (5:30 a.m.): For just forty euro, we will provide you with this mystery meat sandwich on stale bread! Are’t we great?
Me: …..
Mean Lady (5:32 a.m.): For your next flight please visit our website. It’s a miracle that you booked this flight without knowing about it! Flights as low as 2 euro 50 euro! Plastic seats may be included, we’re really not sure.
Me: I hate you.
The Devil (5:40 a.m.): Water or wine?
Me: What? WINE? First, it is not even six a.m. Second, NO. No. Wine. Ever.

My brain was screaming “Hydrate me!” at the top of it’s little brain lungs, so I wondered for a few moments what Airplane Lavatory Faucet Water tasted like. I really thought long and hard about it. Then I shelled out the ten euro for bottled water.

Upon arriving in Madrid, I stared at the signage through a thick haze of nothing as we walked two miles through the airport, aimlessly following the people in front of us. I began to panic a little.

Me: “Martha, you know what I didn’t think about when we booked this trip?”
Martha: “That the Figure-this-Airport-Out-for-Yourselves! Game would take this long?”
Me: “Nope. The fact that I DON’T SPEAK SPANISH.”

I had gotten to the point in high school where I was probably a year away from speaking fluentish. I was at that point of understanding where things started to get confusing. You know, the point where you’re ordering a sandwich somewhere and legitimately cannot remember the English word for cucumber. Two years of disuse later, I barely remembered how to say “where’s the bathroom?” (¿Dónde está el baño? BTW.) I lose language quickly. I don’t even know how to speak English that well.

Just like that, Martha became the “translator” for the trip while I stood and smiled at people (or reflexively spoke at them in English.) At that point it didn’t really matter because it was 8 a.m. and we needed sustenance. How do you say hangover in Spanish? Who knows, Food and Coffee, STAT.

The strange thing about food in Madrid when you are 20-years-old and have no money is that absolutely everything tastes like Spanish ham. Eggs? Ham. Salmon? Ham. Butter? Ham. Ham? Ham. It is really quite distressing, but we scarfed down a larger than necessary portion of food, and found our way to our hostel. It’s possible that we wandered around a private building or two before finding the hostel.

After a nap, we went out to explore the city and, more importantly, to buy Martha shoes. Because Obviously. Who remembers shoes when drunk packing? To her credit, she remembered to bring more than two outfits and underwear. When we returned to our hostel we were looking forward to spending the rest of the evening not drinking EVER and chatting with the Argentinian girls who were staying down the hall.

As we reached our floor, we noticed a man standing by the hostel door. I immediately felt uneasy and could sense Martha felt the same unease. The man by the door looked me right in the eyes – have you ever had someone look at you and the only thought in your head be “danger?” Behind us, a building resident was walking up the stairs and he must have noticed us hesitate because he took the mans attention away so that Marty could unlock the door to our part of the hostel and slam it behind us.

About an hour later, Martha had returned from her shower, and I jokingly said “I’m kind of afraid to leave our room, what if he’s here?!!” She was laughing when I opened the door and he was standing there. I slowly closed the door and turned and started laughing that uncontrollable kind of giggle that only comes when you shouldn’t be laughing. “Martha, he IS out there!”

He began banging on the doors and screaming for the “chica morena” which, I mean, was really vague seeing as every girl in that hostel had brown hair. We used our cell phones to call upstairs and try in broken Spanish to explain that there was an intruder in the hostel. Lucky for us, one of the Argentinian girls called the police after withstanding thirty minutes of the ordeal. Once the police took him away, the owners of the hostel came downstairs and yelled at all of us for calling the police. I couldn’t understand it, but I imagine the conversation went something like this:

Hostel Dude: Why would you call the police?
Argentinian Girl: Oh, butt dial. Nothing to do at all with the intruder that you were ignoring. Just kidding, sorry I’m not sorry.
Hostel Dude: We were handling it.
Martha (to me): Anddddd we’re leaving tomorrow.

So we did. And that’s the story of how we ended up running into my friend from New York in the best tapas bar in Granada drinking wine again.


I Don’t Want to Hug You

I never meant for this to happen.

This past New Year’s Eve I made a mistake. I established myself as “a hugger” – the person who gives complete strangers hugs in greeting.

The way I see it, there are 5 Levels of Stranger-ness (at Parties):

1.   Randy:  This Stranger is a total stranger.  He probably wants to make out with you and/or your friends…and/or the lampost.  Who is he?  It doesn’t matter!  You won’t learn his name because you’ll be calling him by his Code Name for the rest of the night.  Code Names are often derived from identifiable features, including, but not limited to:  “Lady Hair,”  “Captain Blackbeard,” “Facial Tat” and “Chlamydia.”

2.  L’Etranger:  The Foreign Stranger.  No one knows this person.  You can’t even figure out how he got invited to the party.  Frequently, he is a random French dude (always french) who your friend’s friend met six years ago on their two-week life-changing “study abroad” adventure.  He doesn’t speak – presumably because he doesn’t understand Slur (drunk English) – which makes him seem mysterious.  You can safely assume that he spends more time contemplating the meaning (or meaninglessness) of life than you do.  This party is probably just another vapid gathering of nothings in his existential existence.  He looks like maybe he killed someone.  You just don’t know.  But, does it even matter?

3. Future Ex-Boyfriend:  They say when you know, you know…that he’s going to be your ex-boyfriend one day!

Me: He’s cute!  He looks like he’s going to make me MISERABLE.

Melanie:  Yes.  He seems “nice.”  You might, maybe, want to consider avoiding?

Me:  And steer clear of my type?  Never.  Not while there are RED FLAGS EVERYWHERE!  Silly.

4. Your New Best Friend: When you look into this Stranger’s eyes for the first time, a wave of acceptance that you will be friends one day washes over you.  It’s Friendlove at first sight, and it is real.   Often, you can just outright tell these people that you want to be friends with them, like you did in Kindergarten:

A snippet of an actual conversation I had last Saturday:


Girl: Okay! Me too!

5. Actual Ex-Boyfriend:  This is awkward.  This Stranger is technically not a stranger.  You actually knew them pretty well one time, but hey, the past is the past.  Now, they’re relegated to a subcategory of Stranger.  And you’d like to keep it that way!

Him: Hey.  How are you?  You look really pretty.

Me:  I know.  I would literally rather be in that booby-trapped room in the Temple of Doom with walls that move in to slowly crush me to death than be in this situation right now.  Soooooooooo nice to see you!  Hope you’re good.

6. Ozzy Osmosis:  You basically know this stranger because everyone you know knows them.  Sometimes, Ozzy is your friend’s sibling.  Sometimes, Oz is the friend-of-friends who is living somewhere abroad (NOT to be confused with L’Etranger over there in the corner.)  And sometimes, but only sometimes, is Ozzy The Unicorn Friend: that friend from college whose whereabouts are generally unknown; you’ve been told before that s/he only emerges a few times a year, if s/he even has cell phone coverage again.  The point is:  you know who they are and they know who you  are.  You know they know who you are, and they know that you know that they know that you know… who they are.

And so it was, that in the hours before 2014, a rather delicate situation arose:  I was faced with meeting and greeting an Ozzy and a Randy at the same time.

Greetings are the worst part of meeting Strangers.  They are a hotbed for awkwardness because they require you to read the comfort level and appropriateness of the situation.  Usually, I am quite good at this, but occasionally, I slip up.

ASIDE: It is for this reason that my dream of being on a talk show is also my greatest fear.  I know that when that day inevitably comes and David Letterman greets me on stage, I will go in for a hug while he goes in for a handshake.  I will probably go to kiss the same cheek he kisses, too, causing both of us to do the awkward chicken-bob head dodge to avoid kissing each other on the lips.  I’ve thought about this moment a lot.

On this night, the part of Ozzy was played by the brother of two of my friends.  I had been hearing about him for two years and he had never surfaced.  I was beginning to doubt his existence.  Naturally, upon greeting him, I gave him a hug and said “So nice to finally meet you!” (or some shit like that.)  I don’t think he knew who I was.  Boys don’t pay attention to anything, though, so whatever!

Unfortunately, I chose to hug him almost immediately before I stuck my hand out to greet Randy, who stood waiting next to him.  I watched, with awkward horror, as Randy’s look of expectancy turned to Kind-Of-Sad-Confusion.

Randy looked down at my hand.

I smiled.

He opened his arms and stared at me.

I hesitated.  My extended hand involuntarily retracting.

“What? No hug for me?” Randy said.

So, I gave in.  I did. I hugged him and I thought:

I am the most awkward person on the planet! I am so mean for not going to hug you right away!

But not really, because hugging you is so awkward because I REALLY DO NOT KNOW YOU!

Who are you?

Why do you have the same haircut as Jennifer Lawrence?

Did you just say your name?  I wasn’t listening.  I’m going to call you Lady Hair for the rest of the night.

And I did.

That’s the story of how I became a hugger.