How To Pay Bills Abroad
1. Receive mystery bill in Spain for huge amount.
2. Translate bill from Catalan into Spanish, then English, so it is now a Chinese whisper of the original.
3. Note that translator app is imperfect as it gives me a choice of address; ‘Attic’, ‘Basement’, ‘Canyon’, ‘Netherlands’.
4. Try to pay online. Fail because I do not live in a canyon in the Netherlands.
5. Take bill to ancient, empty, mysteriously vast post office with greek columns and echoing marble floors. It feels municipal. These people are bound to be able to help.
6. Take a number. My number is 17. They are currently on 15. No problem.
7. Wait for two hours. They still haven’t called 16. An old lady seems to be having a fit, but it just turns out to be standard Spanish conversation in a post office.
8. Post office gentleman is very nice and only speaks Catalan. He explains in a verbose manner peppered with hand gestures that I am in the wrong building and need to go to a bank.
9. Go to bank. It is now shut for lunch.
10. Return later to find bank open, but am told it’s not the right branch. Have I tried the internet bankings?
11. Go to right branch. It is now shut for Easter.
12. Take bill to bank when it reopens the following week.
13. Bill is now one day out of date and needs to be reissued. This can be done at the Town Hall.
14. Perhaps it can be done at the Town Hall. I don’t know because Town Hall is shut.
13. Am told to get bill reissued via Tourist Information office, and then take to bank. ‘Don’t you have the internet bankings?’ asks nice lady. ‘Yes,’ I say, ‘but I don’t live in a canyon in the Netherlands.’ She gives me funny look.
14. Wait while huge tourist complains about having wallet stolen to harassed information girl.
15. Girl reads all pages of bill in great detail, then shakes head and suggests I take it to Post Office.
16. Decide to go home and let the Spanish debt-collectors come and find me. Think of buying a gun in case there’s a stand-off.