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If there is one thing kids love to do is to make fun of one another, and, more often than not, the target of these mockeries ends up being someone’s body or physique, a phenomenon that we now know as…
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It’s September 14th 2018 and tonight I’m going on a first date with a guy I met on Tinder.
I moved to Spain only two weeks ago. Just like every new beginning, I can’t help but be excited. I have so much to look forward to right now. New apartment, new roommates, a new job I’m going to start in just two weeks and now this date.
I had a really good feeling about this guy from the moment I saw his profile. His profile was unique in the best way possible. He came across as smart, funny and sweet and it didn’t take us long to decide to meet IRL.
He got to my house on time, parked his bike and texted me. He’s a local but my A2 Spanish level doesn’t allow me to carry on a conversation so we end up speaking mostly in English.
After a quick trip to the local supermarket, where we buy a few snacks, we head to the beach. We find a spot and get comfortable on a beach towel we’d brought from home.
The date itself goes smoothly. We spend hours sitting next to each other talking, switching between English and Spanish until the sky goes from light blue to orange, from orange to pink and then slowly turns black.
We talk about all sorts of things until it’s about midnight. We decide to call it a night, after all he’s got a train to Barcelona to catch the following day. Apparently he’s flying to Japan the day after. Now, I don’t know whether this is true or if this guy has just come up with the greatest back-up plan in case the date doesn’t go well and he decides to ghost me.
We both agree we could maybe do this some other time, maybe when he comes back from fake Japan? I get up and reach for my purse. I feel the cold sand against my hand. My purse is not there. Naive-me thinks that I must have misplaced it, I look around sure to find it but, alas, my purse is nowhere to be found.
Now, this may be a small inconvenience for some, but for me, at that time, that bag meant everything. Tinder Guy gets up, looking worried and confused – he cannot believe it either. I mean, we had been sitting on that little square of beach the whole night, I’m sure we were distracted at times but surely nobody could’ve been so brazen as to just rob two people that were right there talking.
I quickly make a mental list of everything that I had in my bag. My credit card was there but I could easily block it by calling my bank, while as for everything else, I could easily replace it, right? Wrong!
As Tinder Guy starts looking through the trash bags on the beach, hoping the thief had been nice enough to only steal the 5 euros I had in my wallet and leave everything else behind, all the things I had in my purse start coming back to mind one by one, and as the list grows so does my worry. It was a tiny purse but I am surprisingly good at fitting a ton of stuff in the smallest spaces, which meant that Beach Ninja, that’s what we ended up naming the thief, had just scored a phone, a pair of prescription glasses, all my documents and a set of house keys.
For the thief, that probably didn’t amount to much – my phone was old and unless this person had the same prescription as me, those glasses wouldn’t be very useful.
But for me, for me that meant I had no way of calling my bank nor my family to let them know what happened. I couldn’t show up for my appointment to get my Spanish documents in order because an ID was necessary. And I… oh shoot, I couldn’t get into my house. I’m screwed.
I try to contain my despair, after all I’m still on a first date. I try to act as carefree as possible as if I’ve got everything under control but, to be honest, nothing is under control right now and I just want to collapse on the beach and cry, which is usually my go-to reaction for anything that happens in my life, good or bad.
I try to pull myself together as Tinder Guy suggests we go to the police station nearby, which is only a 2-minute walk from where we are and right by my house.
I never go anywhere without my purse so I follow him and I can’t shake the feeling I’ve forgotten something, only I know all too well I didn’t forget it! It was freaking stolen from me! We get to the police station where the police officer promptly suggests we come back the following day. Apparently there’s a four-hour wait because there have been a lot of thefts that night… Thanks Beach Ninja!
Tinder Guy kindly lets me use his phone. I manage to call my bank and block all my cards. Once that is done, I call my mom and tell her what happened.
What a shitty way to end a first date! Oh well, it’s getting really late now, Tinder Guy has a train to catch in just a few hours and I’ve got to figure out how to handle a situation like this in a foreign country and with what little Spanish I know.
We walk to my place and say our goodbyes. I ring the intercom waiting for my roommates to buzz me in but nothing. I try again. Nothing. That makes sense, it’s Saturday night in Spain. Why would they be home?
I look at Tinder Guy, Tinder Guy looks at me and I know we’re both thinking “Shit, what now?”.
It has just become apparent this date is nowhere near over yet. As he calmly states, we’ve got two options. Either we hang out and wait for my roommates to come or… “if I trust him” I could go back to his place.
My mom taught me better than to trust a stranger and go spend the night at his place, but, like I said, I’ve got a really good feeling about this guy so, even though there’s a teeny, tiny part of me that thinks maybe he’s actually the one who stole my purse, I decide to shut that voice up and to just go with him.
He gets on his noble steed, aka his bike, and I sit on the saddle and off we go. His place is 20 minutes away, which means, given it’s early September in the south of Spain, by the time we get there, the poor thing is drenched in sweat. He excuses himself and leaves me alone while he goes to the bathroom to take a much-needed shower.
I’m sitting in Tinder Guy’s living room. His roommate is away so it’s just me and him and I’m wondering if I just did something really stupid by coming home with this stranger but my gut is telling me it’s all good and I always listen to my gut.
What happens next is what you’d expect to see in a Hallmark movie. I’ll spare you that part because it might be too cheesy even for the most romantic. Let’s just say there was some guitar/ukulele playing, some singing, lots of laughing and some kissing.
We finally go to bed. Tinder Guy is out like a light but I can’t seem to fall asleep. I keep thinking of all the things I need to do the following day to clean up the mess Beach Ninja created for me.
I manage to get a few hours of sleep but at 7 o’clock I get up and I start doing what I always do when I’m overwhelmed. I grab a post it note, a pen and I start writing everything I need to do and as I start to write all this down, I realize I’m trying to solve a puzzle that simply can’t be solved.
I obviously need to go to the police station, but I don’t know my way around the city because I always rely on Google Maps, so first I need a phone, but how can I get to the store? And even if I did know how to get there, how would I pay for it? I could ask my mom to transfer some money to my bank account but… I don’t have my credit card so I wouldn’t be able to take out the money!
As I’m frantically trying to come up with a good plan, Tinder Guy wakes up and asks me what I’m doing. I show him my note with the never-ending list of things to do and at this point I know any other Tinder Guy would have probably looked at me with sympathy and would have shown me the door, but not Marcos.
Sure, he’s got a train to catch in just a few hours and he’s not even packed yet, but when Marcos looks at the list, he tells me that I don’t need to worry, that we’ll get everything done and that he’ll help me.
Now I don’t know what to think. I knew that Spaniards were nice but this is next-level nice. If the situation had been slightly different, I probably would have politely declined but I look at the list and I realize that I’m not really in a position to reject his offer.
We have a quick breakfast and then it’s go-time. The biggest issue is money – without money, I can’t get a phone, without a phone I can’t get around and if I can’t get around I can’t do the rest of the stuff.
Marcos offers to lend me €200. Yes, that’s right, this total stranger who’s leaving for Japan for 10 days just offered to lend me hundreds of euros, just like that.
I stall for a minute and call my mom. Now, my mom and my sister are my rocks. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without them. They know most of what happened but they have no idea all this happened while I was on a Tinder date.
I talk to my sister who says she can make an immediate bank transfer. “€400 should be enough, right? Only… I need to know which bank account to send it to.” I look at Marcos and I ask him something never in a million years I would have thought I’d ask someone I was on a first date with “Is it okay if my sister sends you €400?”. He nods.
My mom and my sister know a lot about my life but I usually don’t share with them details of how my Tinder dates go so saying that my sister was surprised when I told her who was the guy she was supposed to send 400 euros to would be an understatement.
We’re about 11 hours into the date and we think, at this point, there’s not much more that could go wrong. Well, we were mistaken. We look out the window and the usually bright blue sky Valencia is so famous for is looking incredibly gray. Not long after, it starts raining and I’m not talking about the romantic drizzle that gently wets your face as you’re walking, I’m talking incessant, pouring rain.
Time is ticking with Marcos’ train leaving in just a few hours so we don’t have a lot of time to spare but we have no choice, we have to buy an umbrella. We make our first stop at a local shop to buy a 5-euro umbrella that would turn out to be a real lifesaver that day.
Now that we’re shielded from the rain, we head to the closest train station. My top priority is to get my hands on a phone. I need a phone and I need it now, in fact, I need it yesterday. There’s a cheap phone shop in the city center that’s just perfect and it’s only a couple of train stops away.
Marcos scans his subway pass and gets through the gate. I wait patiently for him to be on the other side so he can hand me his pass and I can use it too. I scan it but the red light and the loud buzzing noise immediately let me know there is no way the gate will open. We ran out of trips. Damn it! I turn around and spot the closest ticket machine. Marcos hands me a €50 bill from the other side of the gate. I thank him, I turn around and walk confidently towards the machine whose screen kindly informs me of the payment methods I can choose from. Credit card, debit card, €20 bills, €10 bills, €5 bills. Shoot.
Marcos checks his wallet only to find more €50 bills. We know there’s only one option left. Marcos, Tinder Guy who I met less than half a day ago, hands me his debit card from behind the gate and whispers his pin code to me.
So there we were, two strangers, one with hundreds of euros that belonged to the other one in his pocket, and the other with their date’s debit card and pin number in her hand.
The ticket machine rewards our tenacity with a ticket that lets me reunite with my hero.
Second stop: phone store. We get there completely drenched despite the umbrella. I have 400 euros I can spend, well, technically, Marcos has the money but there’s no way I’m going to spend all that money on a phone, after all I have no idea how long I’m going to have to make that money last! I buy a 200-euro phone and Marcos pays for it with the money my sister sent him.
Third stop: Vodafone. A phone alone is pretty useless, I need a new number, a Spanish phone number, and a good phone plan. We get there thinking that getting a new phone number shouldn’t be that complicated, right? Well, the Vodafone employee doesn’t seem to think so. In order to issue a phone number, they need an ID but mine… was stolen, remember?
They consider what options we have and then ask the stranger next me, who by this point, is looking less and less like a stranger, if he’d be willing to let me use his ID. We look at each other hesitantly and then Marcos agrees with a “I mean, why not? After all, we’re practically married already!”
In the end, it turns out there’s no need for Marcos’ ID since a copy of my passport was all they needed and luckily I had one sitting in my inbox because I had emailed it to someone once.
I get out of the store with a brand-new phone and an even more brand-new phone number. There’s only one thing left to do – go file a police report. We wander around Valencia looking for a police station under the pouring rain. It’s not the most romantic situation but we don’t care. In just a few hours we’ve been through so much and, most importantly, we’ve had to learn to trust one another. We’re acting like two carefree teenagers who are discovering what love is like for the first time and nobody that sees us would ever suspect I got robbed just the night before.
After a lot of walking, we find a police station and with Marcos as my translator, we successfully file a police report. We go back to his place but I can’t stay long. He has to pack and I’ve got to sort out the rest of my to-do list, which, thanks to this unbelievable guy, is now looking much shorter.
We agree to see each other again when he comes back from Japan. I grab my phone and the €150 that I had left. I wait at the bus stop for a few minutes, exhausted yet still thrilled and when the bus comes I hand one of the €50 bills to the bus driver. “Sorry, ma’m.” He says in Spanish. “I can only accept €20 bills”. It figures. It’s stopped raining so the 40-minute walk to my place is not that bad. I get home, my roommates let me in and I sprawl out on my bed, tired but happy.
Marcos and I text for a while. He didn’t have a lot of time to pack but he made it work and is now on the train that will take him to Barcelona. He’ll go to dinner with his uncle and his friends, spend the night in the city and then, in the early morning, he and his uncle will fly to Tokyo. Or at least, that was the plan.
What I’ll recount from now on is just bits and pieces of the information I gathered from what I was later told and the phone conversations Marcos and I had that day.
About an hour after Marcos’ train had left, I get a message from him, a message that unexpectedly made our date even more surreal. The message read: “I forgot to pack my passport”. I call him immediately, feeling guilty as hell, because I know perfectly well I am the reason why he had to pack so quickly. On the phone, he explains to me he can’t go back to Valencia. If he does, he’ll miss his flight. There’s not much that I can do for him from here but thankfully Marcos and his friends who are helping him remotely from Valencia quickly discover there is a solution.
The only thing Marcos needs to do is go to the police station as soon as he gets to Barcelona, explain what happened, show his national ID and ask for a temporary passport. When Marcos tells me they’ve got a plan, I feel incredibly relieved. Finally, something that goes well. But I’d spoken too soon.
Marcos gets to the police station before dinner time but in what must’ve seemed to him like a déjà vu, he’s told the wait is very long, so he decides to put off his (by then) fifth encounter with local authorities and to go have dinner with his friends, he can always worry about the passport later.
If you thought this story was unrealistic until now, well… just wait till you hear what happens next. It must be around 10 o’clock when I get another message from Marcos. I read it again and again, half smiling, half frowning, because I just can’t believe it. “Lara, you’re never going to believe this, someone stole my wallet.”
Now, most people in his situation would have probably cried or gotten angry but in all of his texts Marcos sounded surprisingly upbeat and even amused. Neither of us knew if he was going to be able to make his flight but I think that deep down we knew that no matter what, we were going to walk home with an unbelievable story, literally.
Don’t ask me how because the details of what happened that night in Barcelona are still unclear to me, but somehow Marcos managed to get on that flight that morning and had an amazing 10-day trip with his uncle.
I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I had never gotten robbed, if Beach Ninja had decided to take a day off that day, if my roommates had been home. Would Marcos and I have gone on a second date? Would we have become boyfriend and girlfriend? When you think about it, everything that could go wrong on our very first date did go wrong, but looking back and looking at where we are now, I wouldn’t change a thing.
I’d like to thank my friend Fabio for inviting to his podcast Stolaroid Stories and encouraging me to tell this story. You can listen to us talking about it here. Fabio is an online English teacher who helps English learners improve their English by telling personal stories based on their photographs. If you’d like to find out more about him and what he does, go to https://stolaroid.com/.