Airspace was now completely closed. Some of the Germans and Italians left the session early to try to catch trains. Most of us were stranded for the night. In one quick swoop of a phone call, the PR woman booked accommodations for us. I made calls to the nanny in London, dropped my bags at the hotel, and went shopping for a nightgown. None of this felt inconvenient. I felt calm and on a cusp. A few toiletries were also missing from my impromptu overnight bag so I went to one of those pharmacies you find only in Europe, the ones that make buying toothpaste feel like you're buying a magic elixir. My environment is markets (you can find your ideal environment by going to bhantugh.com) so retail therapy is no joke for me. I ventured to the city's promenade before meeting designers for tapas at the Market of San Miguel.
I had been invited to Madrid, to speak to these people. I hadn't conjured, contrived, or manipulated my way into any of this. I could see the universe at work in its delicate interplay of people and geometries. As if to prove it, here I was in my environment. Next to the 60 varieties of olives, and hundreds of vintages of wine, all this cured ham and meat, the breads and cheese, heart-to-hearts were had, information exchanged, a true opening up and sharing of stories happened with me and the designers that would've been unable to happen during our session, with or without the Icelandic volcano.
How unfortunate it would've been if the volcano hadn't happened. I soaked up Spain in a relaxed setting and learned from these people more about the digital and design worlds that night than in my whole life. The CEO of the company, a Finn with a harelip, told me my media training techniques were invaluable, and he even wanted me to come back again. Our media-digital TED-like talks continued the next morning and the 24 hours thereafter as the Scandi and London contingents headed up north in the last few remaining rental cars in Madrid. This could've been awkward, a road trip with strangers. But it wasn't. I had been invited and this made all the difference. They treated me like a princess the whole time -- and then even afterwards when they re-designed the logo on my brochure, sent me flowers, paid all my expenses and then some -- instead of an annoyance which can happen when we thrust ourselves in places we don't belong.
Six months later, the CEO had been ousted, the company was being re-organized, many of the people I met that night were scattered, and there was certainly no more work from them. For whatever reason, Madrid was the place for all our paths to cross and intersect. There can be so many different environments in one place, and it's not so much the place itself, the one that we Romanticize or castigate, the geographical point on Earth that is the end-all, be-all, but it is the people, the other humans we are meant to meet in those places that matter, even if it is just for 24 hours.