I was in Lisbon, Portugal for Saturday #104 and it was the culmination of their week long celebration of Pride. I had been planning to move on to Porto this week but several people at my hostel promised that Lisbon has “THE BEST” Pride celebration and I really shouldn’t miss it.
When I got to the park in Real Príncipe around noon I found half a dozen old men sitting on benches and a few moms watching over kids who played on the swings. There wasn’t a bare chest or a rainbow flag in sight. No Super Soakers and no sequins. I had expected to find a pumping party with massive speakers and lasers but instead three kids were trying in vain to get a teeter-totter to work.
I knew I had made some kind of mistake so I asked one of the moms if she knew anything about Pride. She directed me to the Terreiro do Paço (Palace Yard), which is about a 30 minute walk to the south.
When I finally got the Terreiro do Paço I found perhaps two dozen tents lining the perimeter of the western half of the square. About 50 people were setting up booths, hanging banners and an aging drag queen was doing mic checks from a large stage. If not for Kitty Glitter, it would be impossible to tell if this was a Pride event, a celebration of International Day of Small Dogs on Leashes, or simply part of the Euro Cup celebrations that were taking place on the easterly half of the square.
I spoke with a girl who was selling Caipirinhas. (Yes, Toronto, they sell booze on the street in Lisbon and it’s not a problem). She told me to come back around midnight as absolutely nothing will happen until the end of the Euro Cup quarterfinal match between Portugal and Croatia. “If we win, the whole city will come out to party,” she explained.
I headed to Starbucks where I put the finishing touches on an article that I had been writing for a horse racing publication. It’s not like me to beat a deadline by a week but I did. As I was packing up to leave, I noticed an elderly woman seated in a comfy chair directly behind me. She caught my attention when she let out a very loud sigh. Actually, it was more like a moan than a sigh. I thought it was unusually loud for a small and seemingly dignified lady but I realized that she was napping and there was nothing to worry about. I snapped a photo for no good reason.
By the time I had wrapped up the cord for my iPad and returned my plate to the front counter, a small crowd had gathered around the woman.
“I don’t see her chest moving,” said one lady. She’s definitely not breathing,” added another.
As someone who slept through a nine-hour bus ride into Lisbon, I can understand how an octogenarian could have a little nap while seated in a comfy chair, especially with warm sunshine beaming through the window and Diana Krall singing “Peel Me A Grape” in the background.
An old man waved his hand dismissively and said something in Portuguese that I imagined to be, “Leave her alone; she’s asleep.”
I agreed with him but watched the drama anyway. One smartly-dressed businesswoman tapped the old lady on the shoulder. She didn’t move. She tapped a little harder. Nothing.
I still had no doubt that she was just sleeping so I continued to pack up my stuff. The lady who seemed to be the most concerned hurried to the front to summon the manager. Most of the other patrons from the back room followed suit.
They weren’t gone 30 seconds before the old woman opened her eyes, got up, straightened her blouse, and headed for a side door. She was 100 meters up the street before the manager and the gaggle of concerned patrons returned.
I made my exit just as hastily as the old woman so I can only imagine what happened next. “Honest, she was right here,” I imagine the do-gooders proclaiming in unison. “Just ask the guy over there on the iPad.”
When I got back to the hostel I found four girls in the room and they were all sound asleep, presumably resting up for a big night on the town.
I don’t think I had slept more than 10 minutes before an alarm went off. It wasn’t my Roger Huston ‘If you’ve never been on your feet, you better get up now’ ringtone so I was relieved. It was Avril Lavigne singing Hello Kitty (I think) and it was coming from the bunk directly below me. It went on for at least a minute at very high volume. Everyone else in the room sort of looked at each other and wondered who would get up first.
I looked down from my perch and could see that the girl was awake while the music continued to play. At least her eyes were wide open.
“People are trying to sleep,” I said in a voice loud enough that she should have heard me. She didn’t respond.
With that I got up and climbed down the ladder, hoping this would embarrass her into turning off the music. It didn’t.
“People are trying to sleep. Can you turn off your alarm, please?” I thought that would be all that was required and started to climb back up the ladder.
The music continued. After another minute I climbed back down and stared at the girl. She looked at me uncomfortably but said nothing.
Perhaps it wasn’t an alarm and she was just listening to music. Did she mistakenly think she was wearing earplugs or very comfortable headphones?
“Can you turn down your music, please?”
She looked up at me and said sweetly: “I am Korean.”
“Okay, but turn down your music. Everyone is trying to sleep.”
“Yes. I am Korean,” she insisted.
“Yes, I know, and I don’t mind Avril Lavigne, but it’s too loud. Don’t you have earplugs?”
“Yes. Korea. Me.” She pointed at herself as if I needed further explanation. And that’s where I lost it.
“I know! But turn down the F___ING music,” I said with as much emphasis on the F-word as I could muster.
If she understood just one word of English, that was definitely it. She recoiled as if I was about to hit her. I felt bad that I had scared her but what happened next made me chuckle.
The girl’s quick movement caused a flesh-coloured earplug to pop out of her right ear and bounce across the floor.
“Sorry. Sorry. So sorry.”
I went back to bed and thought about the old lady from Starbucks. That’ll be me some day, I realized. I can sleep almost anywhere, anytime, if I try. So far it has been a blessing rather than an inconvenience, but what if I start falling asleep in public?
I also wondered how I could sleep through all that must have happened on a nine hour bus ride yet a Hello Kitty ringtone woke me and annoyed me to no end. I don’t have all the answers but I am reasonably sure I could sleep through WW III if I just had a pair of those Korean-made earplugs.
If anyone is wondering what to get me for Christmas…