Its been raining, wet and damp for the past few days. Montevideo (in Uruguay) has been quiet, there has not been much to see. My friend has left to go back home and return to work after spending about a week together in Argentina and then 48 hours in Uruguay. I always feel sad to say bye to people but I know its not forever. Its slightly weird to return to sharing a 6-bed dormitory with other “travel-strangers”, but the place is nice and doesn’t really feel like a grotty hostel.
Of course, sharing a room with 5 other people you don’t even know takes getting used to. It has also been weird to be sharing with hearing people, I am rather conscious of every noise I make. I have been wondering about my breathing and whether its too loud. I then stop breathing and of course cough in desperate need to breathe again! Stupid me.
I remember one of my previous lodgers, a hearing friend called Danny, telling me that hearing people live in a world of sound. Hearing people fart. Hearing people make noises when sleeping. I remind myself of his wisdom and try to sleep amongst strangers in the dormitory. The guy sleeping above me (bunk beds) turns every so often and I feel every movement. I then become conscious, or too conscious, of my own movements, worrying that I disturb him.
As I drop in and out of semi-conscious sleep, I am also aware I need to leave at 615am in order to get to the airport and pick up my hire car in time. Its about 100 dollars cheaper to pick up a hired car from the airport compared to downtown here despite excessive web searches for good deals. However it also means having to get to the airport which is some 15miles away.
I wake up earlier in time to avoid my phone vibrating like some emergency is happening! I turn the phone alarm off, quickly shower and change in the bathroom. Having already packed and sorted my clothes for today, I am able to get moving quickly. I consciously remind myself to not forget my umbrella, it cost me $2.50 rather than buying a waterproof jacket for $300!
So, with my big green rucksack on one hand, my small rucksack on my back, a bloody carrier bag with laundry stuff and bottles that I would never want spilling into my main bag, and my brolly… I set out of the hostel and remember to close the door quietly.
Its disappointingly, frustratingly and utterly wet. Although its not down pouring with rain, I just find it so depressing. I walk 1.3miles to the bus station, dragging my main rucksack (broken handle see previous blog re Tafi de Valles) over the uneven pavements and puddles. I find I get really annoyed with these pavements, they are damaged by tree roots, but its just too frequent for me to have to drag my huge rucksack over big cracks, and it kind of hurts my back doing this too much. As I reach the bus station, the rain starts and it’s a little tricky to hold my umbrella up and carry my stuff into the bus although I manage. This isn’t a scheduled bus, its just this random guy who has a bus and is wanting to make some money by having some agreement with the bus ticket office. I finally sit on the bus, luggage in the seat next to me. I feel so wet, tired and enjoy the breeze that comes through the driver’s window despite raindrops spilling in.
I text several friends in the UK with my vents about the weather. Their replies are mainly lovely, telling me to chin up and that things will be bright again. A few tell me to stop moaning 🙂
I booked my hire car online using one of those websites that give you a good deal. I have my stuff on my phone to demonstrate proof of purchase. I have also bought damage/collision insurance on line too, again I make sure that I have the information saved on my phone.
At the airport I go inside the main building searching for the car hire desk, Thrifty. There isn’t one. There’s Budget, there’s Hertz, there’s others, but no Thrifty. I go up to the Hertz one and ask the member of staff where Thrifty is. At first he is disappointed I’m not a potential customer, but as a typical Uruguayan he is more than helpful. He tells me to look for the sign outside the main doors for the shuttle service to Thrifty cars. I realise that Thrifty isn’t based at the airport but 200 meters away.
A little tired, I make my way and find the sign – it says the shuttle bus comes every 20minutes. I look at my watch to “time” how long I wait. 45minutes later I find myself losing patience; every flipping white shuttle bus looks the same and yet it still hasn’t turned up. 7.20am, 7.30am, 7.35am, 8am… I give up and go inside and ask the general information desk to help me. They are very kind and eventually they phone Thrifty and tell them I’m waiting. They relay to me that the shuttle bus is on its way. I thank them profusely and return outside. I stare at the heavy rain downpour, wondering to myself whether its going to be worth it to drive all the way out to Punta del Diablo today – which is famous for its beach stuff.
The shuttle bus arrives, an older-looking guy jumps out and helps me with my luggage. I don’t know if he has apologised for the delay but we quickly leave. About 1.5miles away we arrive at the little Thrifty car hire shop. Well it is more like a portacabin than a shop. Its incredibly small, with a long desk and two computers that you can’t see unless the assistants turn their screen around for you. And then I see her.
She, the Thrifty attendant. She has these heavy false eye lashes, the type that has been glued on after sitting for hours in a shop. I don’t know if they do these in public shopping malls in Uruguay, but have always been intrigued as to why in the UK people get some cosmetic stuff done in the middle of the shopping walkway in various shopping centres.
Anyway, this lady introduces herself to me – it lipreads something like Maggie, I simply nod away. I give her the documentation required. She keeps batting her eyelids when reading or handling things. I further notice that she has these really long finger nails, the ones that get pasted onto old nails. They are all very pink with various patterns. They are so long that I am amazed she is able to type on my google translator app. I kind of stare closely at her fingers, wondering if it’s the nails that touch the buttons or her finger-tips. She kind of stares back at me and I gaze away. She is constantly looking at her computer screen, typing things in, asking me for detail that we frustratingly know was already given on line – pointless really!
She then asks me for $5000 security deposit. I am taken aback. The website I used didn’t say anything about this. I also don’t have that amount on any of my cards. As a traveller I have 4 cards, 2 with me and 2 in the main rucksack case in case of theft. But none of them have $5000 worth, credit or not. I am truly stuck. The rain is pouring down, and my head is just asking me what am I going to do? I look at her and then back to the google translate screen. I ask her what the solution could be. She doesn’t appear at all sympathetic, its almost as if this has happened before a number of times.
I check my booking confirmation twice, there’s nothing about needing a security deposit, let alone $5000. I start feeling rather emotional due to the sleepless night, saying bye to my friend, the bloody rain. I start wondering whether I should ask my parents for this amount but I know its way too much. I ask the Bet Lynch look-alike whether I should contact my parents to use their credit card. She says no, telling me it has to be me. She additionally types a few extra one-line messages that make no sense to me at all. I just cannot understand what she is trying to tell me.
I then type a bit of a long message, explaining that I am a solo traveller, and that whilst I understand we have a situation I needed her to stop these spontaneous one line messages and to summarise exactly what the position is and what she suggests we do. She then types away for quite a while, pink elongated nails going up and down. Each finger has its own pattern, I’m wondering how long she spent doing them. I am also wondering how she cooks, how she goes about daily chores. I mean they are so long you start imagining her frying some bacon using her nails rather than using a pair of tongs!
I log into the wifi, and call my parents on facetime. I just feel like I am in a quandary and I need some support, some wisdom. Dad doesn’t pick up. Mum doesn’t either. And then within a few minutes Mum calls me back. It’s a little slow (wifi) and then the speed gets better. We sign away and I tell them about my situation. They are reassuring but equally they confirm it is wrong to agree to a 5k deposit, just way too much.
Miss-Bet-Lynch-lookalike explains that the best thing would be for me to purchase Thrifty insurance for $12, which would mean my giving a $2000 security deposit which is within my credit allowance. I am relieved to have found a solution and whilst I am miffed given I have already purchased separate insurance, I know $12 isn’t going to kill me. I confirm I want to go ahead. She then types some more stuff, and I then understand more about what this covers me for. She explains that the additional insurance I had bought would only cover any damage or collision to other people’s cars, not the Thrifty car itself. I realise I have been misled.
The relationship between myself and Miss long-fingernails has vastly changed; she is helpful and I am more grateful. She has seen how worried I was, and how concerned my parents were. She is pleased that the solution offered is being agreed and she quickly sorts the paperwork out. She then types some more into the google translate app:
She: I am really sorry for the the frustration you experienced. I should have explained more
Me: (I touch her hand reassuringly) It’s fine, I just find it hard sometimes as a solo traveller who is deaf but also sticking to a budget too
I then show her my travel map of all the places I have been to and will be going to. She quickly gives an expression of admiration.
We start communicating more directly using gestures, and I give her a compliment on her fingernails. She likes it.
I kind of start wondering about her, why is she working behind a car hire office? Is this her dream job? Is she fed up? Does she want a career change? Does she want to travel the world and think about options for future, like I am doing. I also wonder how much she likes her fingernails, her eyelashes. Does she find them hard work or can’t she be without them?
She passes me the car keys, checks the car thoroughly with me and tells me which petrol I need to use. She types again:
“I congratulate you on your travels, it is awesome. I hope you have a wonderful time and success always”
Bless her. I ask her to take a photo of me with my car and send it to my parents immediately to reassure them.
(Disclaimer: Julie Goodyear would forgive my reference to Bet Lynch above, I am sure of it)
(Disclaimer: The photo of pink fingernails above is taken from google images, I mean, come on do you really think I can take a photo of hers?!)