Was government surveillance focused on Blonde and Brunette in Seville?
After two days of intensive sightseeing in Seville in withering heat we decided that we had seen the major sights and that was enough of that. It was time to find somewhere to swim! This was the first town in nearly 5 weeks of being in Spain where the swimming sisters did not have access to a pool or a beach.
Brunette determined that the best course of action for our final day would be to go to a tourism office and inquire if there were any public or hotel pools we could use. This presented an immediate challenge as the tourism offices are open for about 37 minutes a day after you account for siesta time. However, the indomitable duo startled a tourism representative into speaking to us. She said that we could pay to use the pool at the Melia Hotel in Seville.
Sensible pool-deprived travelers would go to the Melia, pay the entrance fee, use the pool and return to their free lodgings in an 800-year-old building in the coveted Barrio de Santa Cruz.
Brunette wanted to get into the pool for free and convinced Blonde to call ahead and tell the hotel that the travel bloggers, Blonde and Brunette, wanted to tour the property to see if we could recommend it to our readers (each other).
A chipper young management trainee said that she would give us a tour of the hotel if we came over immediately. Brunette put a bathing suit in a Zip-Lock bag in her purse and Blonde stashed one in her purse too (but at least she felt embarrassed about doing it.)
Upon arrival at the hotel the management trainee and the reservations manager took us on a tour of the hotel. Blonde dutifully took notes as to the hotel’s features, amenities and prices in an effort to appear to be a legitimate Girl Reporter.
At the conclusion of the tour our goal was achieved when the manager offered us two free passes to the pool. His assumption was that we would use them later that day or another day. Well, he underestimated us (which, quite frankly, is hard to do).
We announced that we had bathing suits in our purses, which (oddly) seemed to surprise our attentive helpers. We asked if there were changing rooms and soon were plunking ourselves into the pool with unseemly speed.
We had also dropped some less than subtle hints as to our willingness to move to the hotel for that, our last night in Seville, if the price was right. (Remember, we already had free accommodations.) Those hints were ignored.
The pool was lovely. After a refreshing dip we had an excellent lunch served by an astoundingly inept waiter (who we now strongly suspect works for the NSA or was possibly Edward Snowden in disguise). We would point to what we wanted from the menu. He would then worriedly rush over to confer with colleagues who were attempting to have their own lunches. Everyone would look at us and the only English speaking coworker, a J-Lo-esque woman, would mediate. This should have been a clue that we being viewed as suspicious characters.
The previous day our State Department had issued a travel warning to U.S. citizens in certain regions that terrorists were plotting to kill us with a heightened level of enthusiasm. We weren’t staying in any of the mentioned regions so didn’t pay a whole lot of attention.
Post-lunch we took another dip in the pool and then idiotically decided that we wanted to spend our last night at the hotel instead of in our (think we already said this) free apartment.
However, as the reservations manager had not offered us a discount to stay there we used the Wi-Fi at the pool to go on to last minute.com and book a room for less than the rate the manager had stated.
Then Blonde sent the manager an email telling him that we did this, actually thinking this would produce an upgrade! It didn’t but it did seem to raise another red flag with hotel staff.
Then we went into the hotel lobby (in bathing suits) and tried to check in but didn’t have our passports, much less any luggage or anything else with us. The manager was consulted and agreed to permit us to check in “for real” later if we committed to returning with our passports in a couple hours. We got our room keys.
Back out to the pool. Earlier, a seemingly mild-mannered, courteous, nationality-ambiguous man had engaged in a brief conversation with Blonde. Upon our return to the pool Blonde decided to take one of her legendary naps and Brunette got back in the pool.
Before Blonde could even get comfortable on the cabana bed the nationality-ambiguous man came over and began a conversation. It wasn’t a particularly interesting conversation, he asked a lot of questions but gave no answers and was impossible to get rid of. Finally, in frustration Blonde decided to scrap the nap hope and get in the pool thinking the man, now revealed to be “Alberto”, would surely exit the cabana.
But no, he continued to sit there either doing things on his smartphone or staring into space. Eventually Blonde and Brunette got out of the pool and went to the cabana. Brunette had been instructed by her sister to stay between Blonde and Alberto. The waterlogged sisters feigned naps.
Undeterred, Alberto remained. Blonde had to turn on her side and put the beach towel over her head so Alberto couldn’t see her shaking from trying not to laugh. Brunette turned on her side for reasons of her own. Alberto continued remained for an interminable time during which neither Blonde or Brunette slept.
Blonde was better at faking sleep than Brunette so Alberto asked Brunette to tell Blonde he would call her later to say “goodbye”. He hadn’t been given anything but a first name, how was he going to call? Before he could resurface we scuttled off to our dubiously obtained room to shower and go out to dinner (in the dry clothes we had originally shown up in, kind of disgusting).
By now we were totally convinced that Alberto was a secret agent assigned to us. Blonde thought he was “like that guy Carlos the Jackass”. (OK, he was Carlos the Jackal and a terrorist, not a secret agent, and he’s dead, but none of that seemed to be relevant.)
As Brunette took the first shower the telephone in the room rang simultaneously with a knock on the door. Freaked out Blonde didn’t pick up the phone but, after ensuring that it was a hotel employee and not Alberto, opened the door. A bottle of sparkling water, a small bowl of gummy candies and one wine glass were delivered on a tray. Upon hearing the commotion Brunette yelled out to Blonde to answer the phone and got a sharp “no” in return.
The water, wine glass and sugared goodies came with a card ostensibly signed by the two previous hotel employees who had shown us the property. There was much discussion as to why one glass and one small bottle would be sent to two people so Brunette decided Alberto had sent it (despite no evidence).
Confused but cleanish we went back to our free apartment, first stopping for the standard multi-hour Spanish dinner, packed and lugged our considerable luggage down four flights of stairs that had lights timed to go out at particularly crucial moments. By this time we realized we were idiots to have booked a room at the other hotel. We’d wanted to use the pool and we’d done that for free. We were taking a train to Cordoba in the morning and wouldn’t have another chance to use the pool anyway.
Brunette, uncharacteristically, had left her camera in the safe of our room at the “new” hotel so we had to return to retrieve and just decided to pretend that this wasn’t all as stupid as it was.
Our taxi pulled up in front of the hotel and as we entered we saw Alberto (now presumed to be working for Vladimir Putin) on the fringe of the otherwise completely empty lobby. It was close to midnight. As we produced the missing passports it became clear that the front desk personnel had been alerted as to our past behavior.
After providing the passports we turned to get our luggage and Alberto reappeared. He expressed his surprise that his cabana spooning companions had just returned to the hotel at that late hour. Well, how about our surprise that he was lurking in the deserted lobby and our consternation when he got on the elevator with us and pushed the button for our floor?
How did he know our floor? Mostly likely NSA had alerted him to the location when they traced the use of Blonde’s iPhone when we had been there earlier.
We had previously agreed to a policy of not accepting drinks from Alberto due to his oddball behavior earlier but we hadn’t rehearsed for an elevator intrusion. We pulled and pushed our luggage onto the elevator as Alberto held the door open and never offered to help.
At our floor we were quite relieved when Alberto said “goodnight” (then “Roger over and out” into a small microphone chip implanted in his pinky finger) and got back on the elevator.
We did cautiously sneak out for a glass of wine at the empty bar and Brunette thoroughly expected our room to have been ransacked by Alberto during our absence. (It wasn’t but there’d been plenty of time to plant bugs and we don’t mean bed bugs.)
Early the next morning we were back in the lobby with our luggage (about 6 hours from when we had checked in) and there was – Alberto! He came over to once again express his surprise at our behavior and to do the two kiss thing to say goodbye to the sisters he’d slept with on the previous day.
We left with a profound sense of creepiness from Alberto’s constant cameo appearances. He was a sort of skinny, vaguely sinister Alfred Hitchcock run amuck.
Later we suspected the check kisses had been to obtain our DNA to turn it over to the authorities.
What was up with Alberto??
That’s when we became certain that we were under surveillance by our government, Interpol, an international criminal dragnet or at least a local security agency. Why would anyone be keeping tabs on us?
Could it have been because we had called a hotel on a semi-phony pretext, gotten a tour where we took a lot of photographs and wrote down a great deal of information for our “readers”?
Was it when we pulled bathing suits out of our purses?
When we booked a room for less than the stated rate, expected an upgrade for having done so and then checked in without luggage or passports?
Was it somehow linked to the indisputable fact that what we’d done made no sense whatsoever?
We may never know but are relieved to report that we have not had any further sightings of Alberto. We do not know if he has had further sightings of us. For that information you may want to call the NSA. (Oh never mind, they already know what you’re thinking.)
Just a minute, the phone is ringing and there’s someone at the door………..