[Continued from the previous post – if you haven’t read “No Photos, Just a Terribly Embarrassing Albergue Story,” you might want to read that first]
The problem slowly became clear to me.
The young pilgrim wasn’t especially annoyed at me, but I had messed up, without a doubt. There was no one to blame but me. I had caused a major problem.
Can you see it? Please say no.
Maybe now? Experienced pilgrims are slapping their foreheads at my stupidity.
I had to look a dozen times before I saw my mistake.
The day before, the Xunta was small (20 beds) and the friendly hospitalera had given me the receipt, telling me not to lose it since it was my proof I belonged there. This day, the not-as-friendly hospitalera had given me the receipt and waved me along.
I hadn’t noticed that I was assigned a specific bed in a specific section of the building.
I had just put my pack down in a good location, as everyone had routinely done when arriving at an albergue since Day One (I add, defensively).
Today was the first and only day it would be different. I had unknowingly taken this guy’s bed.
I can’t imagine the domino effect I must have caused when he got to his assigned space, saw me dozing peacefully, and said to himself, “Someone’s been sleeping in my bed – and THERE SHE IS NOW!”
As my error flashed into my brain, I instantly offered to vacate and go downstairs, tail between my legs, and ask for another available “cama.” He graciously declined my offer since he had already gotten another bed.
I desperately showed him my tickets and explained in my broken Spanish that I hadn’t known I had been assigned a bed, based on my experience the night before.
I don’t think he really cared. I was so apologetic, though, that he may have begun to feel sorry he had brought it up.
Did he feel badly about how badly I felt at my mistake? Did he really excuse my mistake? Or did he think I was just another arrogant and/or stupid American (had he seen the American flag sewn on my backpack)? I was mortified and humiliated. How could I have been so dumb to not have seen the markings on the receipt and ask questions?
After walking for more than four weeks and 700 kilometers, I still didn’t know what I was doing.
I had a loooong talk with my Saints that night.
If it’s any consolation to that unknown pilgrim whose bed I inadvertently took, a pilgrim came later that afternoon to the upper bunk. He had a “bed bug” sheet with him to prevent bugs from getting to him and I helped him slip the cover on his mattress.
This was the first time during the trip that I had thought about bed bugs in albergues, even though it was a common thread in the on-line forums I’d studied in preparation for my trip.
My infestation-obsessed bunkmate climbed up into his bed later that evening, having spent a raucous night on the town.
I, however, tossed and turned all night long, imagining that every itch and scratch was a you-know-what crawling on me and into my pack.
It was all in my imagination. The only souvenirs I brought home from my trip were all bought and paid for.
But the Camino (St. Julian, I’m looking at YOU) continued to keep me humble.