This is perhaps one of the most hilarious moments of my traveling life. To preface, I am one of the klutziest people alive. If there is a solid surface to run in to, I will run in to it. If there’s a chance for a soccer ball to hit my face, it will hit my face. If there is a hole in the ground for me to trip on, I will trip on it. In this case, it was a turnstile that thwarted my attempt to stay upright…I was at the end of my trip to Spain and Portugal in 2011, visiting a friend who had moved there. I had three days left which I was going to spend in Barcelona and would not be returning to Madrid before flying back to Seattle. As such, I needed to bring everything I had left in my friend’s apartment with me. All the souvenirs I had collected over the last three weeks. All my dirty laundry (I’m sure she loved me for that). No things left behind! As it turns out, I had bought more than I could fit in my luggage (like that’s never happened before). On top of my massive backpack which was packed to bursting, I had my carry on bag brimming with activities to entertain me on the flight, my large camera (in case any pictures needed to be taken RIGHT NOW!) and an enormous shopping bag full of stuff I had bought. I was heavily weighted down.
My flight was at 945am meaning I needed to catch an 8am train to the airport. 8am in Madrid, as in most places, is rush hour. The metro station was packed with commuters on their way to work. I bought my one way ticket to the airport and proceeded to make my way to the gate. When it was my turn, I put my ticket in the slot and walked through. Except I didn’t. I was stuck. The turnstile had come up between my legs and wouldn’t budge. I tried to think of how to fix this. I looked at all the unhappy people behind me, staring at me and wondering what the hell this crazy American tourist was doing and why was she holding up the line?! I started to panic. I should have bought another ticket! I should have walked faster! I’m going to be stuck here forever!
But no. I could get out of this. All I had to do was turn backwards, lift my leg up over the turnstile and slowly inch my way back until I was safely on the inside. Yeah, that’ll work. Good idea! So I put it into action. Only once again, things didn’t go quite according to plan. You see, I had failed to take in to account the weight of my backpack and what would happen to my balance if I leaned back on one foot. Nor did I realize that having all the extra stuff on my arms would prevent me from reaching out to stop my fall. All I knew was that the next moments were a flurry of flailing arms and legs, ending with me flat on my back, staring up at the ceiling with a hundred commuters gawking at me.
Now. This ain’t my first rodeo in the humiliation department. I’ve fallen many times in public places. You just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and go about your business. But this time, I couldn’t get up. My bag was so heavy, and I was in such an awkward position, I literally was unable to pull myself upright. Finally several kind-hearted bystanders lifted me to my feet. One lady even thought it prudent to inform me that my bag was too heavy. All I could say to her was “Gracias”. Realizing how funny this situation was, I laughed myself into an asthma attack all the way to the airport. Because nothing says “sane” to a train full of people like a girl with a lot of bags, sitting alone, cackling.
I found my original Facebook post about this incident and decided it was worth re-sharing as it pretty much sums things up.
“Dignity. Always dignity. This is what I’ve always liked about myself. I never live my life one embarrassing moment to another. Like today. I went to catch the metro to the airport and walked through like a normal person. I certainly didn’t get stuck with one leg on each side of the turnstile, which caused me to fall backwards due to the 30lb pack on my back (if this had happened, there may have been flailing involved, invoking images of turtles, but it didn’t), causing everyone to stare in open mouthed horror. And it definitely wasn’t rush hour. Because things like this don’t happen to me. (And to the 13 people who overcame said horror to help me up and tell me in no uncertain terms that my pack was clearly too heavy, I thank you.)”