Sunday, June 16, 2013

I've Made Up My Mind

When it comes to cycling in another country, I want to do as little research as possible.  This way, I have to use all my wits to be able to ride a bike on one of the days when I’m wandering around by myself.

When that day came in Lisbon, I knew that I’d have to get to Belem which was at the completely opposite side of the city from where we were staying.  Oh sure, I could have walked a block down to the Expo 89 site where on our first night we’d discovered a trailer that operated as a bike rental outlet.  But my mind was made up and I didn’t want to be confused with the facts.

Expo 89 site
Getting to the other side of the city involved taking the subway which they call here the Metro, changing lines from the Vermelha (red) to the Azul (blue).  My wits got their first test when I confidently walked up to the turnstile and slapped my green transit pass onto the magnetic reader where it was greeted with a rude buzzer alarm and a red light began to flash signalling my attempt at transit fraud.

From red to blue
Thankfully it was a holiday so there wasn’t going to be a huge backup of commuters wanting to rush down the stairs to the train that could be heard entering the station many floors below us.  The ticket dispensing machine was only a few steps away and I slunk over to it expecting that it would take some time to buy another pass using instructions in a language I did not understand.

With Lisbon being a tourist destination, of course the machine had an English option that could be accessed by touching a Union Jack symbol on the screen.  I did expect that being in English that the instructions would be a garbled translation from Portuguese similar to those instructions we find when we purchase anything made in Asia and the grammar isn’t quite what you'd expect.

Get out of jail free card
It was a good thing that the instructions were clear and I was able to purchase the correct day pass since unbeknownst to me, when I arrived at my destination, I was going to be stopped by a uniformed official.  With his forage cap and military looking uniform, he could very well have been from the DGS (secret police).  But no, he was a transit inspector and since this was a holiday, it was the perfect time to catch fraudsters since there were no huge crowds to disrupt.

He held out his hand for my pass and my relief was great when his handheld device indicated that everything was correct.  Thinking about the encounter when I finally mounted my rental bike, I was glad that I had paid for a transit pass and not jumped the turnstile which would have been easy to do in the empty subway station given that this was a holiday in Lisbon.

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