The Dictator

So there we were, 9 pilgrims settling into the albergue at San Juan de Villapanada. No host in sight, but everyone knew the basic ways of the albergues, so no worries. I was pleased to find they had chilled bottles of wine in the fridge for a small donation. We uncorked one and began sharing. The group was gelling nicely – just the sort of international conviviality I hoped to encounter on the Camino. Spaniards, a Swede, an Aussie and Mandy and me. 

Eventually the host, Domingo, showed up about 6 pm and immediately shut off the lights inside, even though it was sort of dusk-like. Hmmmm. We all just glanced at each other. Then he went around and started reordering the shelves where we had left our shoes and started pulling down clothes that we had draped across the bunk beds. Now, I will tell you, when one comes in off the trail and your clothes are damp everyone hangs their stuff up or rinses it out then hangs it up. So this action of his was a mite unsettling. But when he got hold of Mandy’s hiking umbrella and was about to take it outside, she had enough. She jumped up from the table and in Spanish told him “no, no! That’s my hiking umbrella that cost me $40 and is so light weight that it will blow away!” It was, after all, raining and windy. Finally he conceded and left it open inside, making everyone feel unlucky. Throughout his gyrations we were all giving each other the side-eye and making snide comments under our breath. But the deal breaker came about laundry. He had a small washing machine so some of the folks decided to throw their clothes in together. But no dryer and we already knew he didn’t like things hanging from the beds. His solution – hang them outside in the rain. Very clever! Well, no one was having anything to do with that. Especially all the Spaniards – they gave him so much push back that he finally relented and agreed to hang a clothes line inside. But that was still not the end of his controlling issue – he proceeded to direct everyone on the proper way to hang clothes and kept shifting around what was hung.


Finally, we just decided to just keep drinking to diffuse the negativity. The end result was that it gelled the group even more – important since he stayed and kept talking and talking even when some of us went off to bed. I was happy for my ear plugs! 

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