Quite a few years ago, Chucky and I found ourselves in Malaga, Spain. We were both in college, and his parents had graciously invited me along on their family trip. We spent our days in more or less typical tourist fashion, venturing around little Spanish villas, the near-by cities and even crossing the Strait of Gibraltar to visit Tangiers Morocco.

The evenings, we had pretty much to ourselves, and although our plans to hop a train to France were thwarted, we managed to enjoy ourselves by wandering aimlessly around Malaga in a relentless search of interesting pubs and British girls to flirt with. We found plenty of both, but as wildly successful as we were at getting these British girls to agree to meet us for dates on subsequent days, we were decidedly less successful at getting them to actually show up.

We also found this poster with a very attractive woman named Ana advertising the Spanish public telephone service. We must have walked past it a dozen times, each time commenting on how attractive Ana was, and how much the poster made us desperately want to use one of these amazing Spanish public telephones to call her up and ask her out on a date. Sadly for us, and fortunately for Ana, however, her number was not listed anywhere on the poster; a fact which we found most upsetting, but was probably a blessing in hindsight because neither of us knew much Spanish and would have most likely made quite a blunder of any advances we might have managed.

On to plan “B” we thought. If we couldn’t have Ana’s phone number, we were most certainly not leaving Spain without her poster.

Now, it is important to realize that this poster was not only in a very public location near the beach, it was also enclosed behind locked glass, making any attempt to acquire it a fairly risky proposition. If we were going to nick it, we were going to first have to find a time when nobody was around, and secondly, a way to unlock the glass cabinet enclosing it.

It so happened that on our last day in Spain, we were were strolling back late at night from a pseudo British pub after a failed attempt to locate flirtable British girls when we noticed that the normally bustling sidewalk where Ana was located had become deserted. Problem one solved! Now just to get that glass cabinet open. I’m a roof and tunnel hacker, so I consider myself above forced entry, preferring more elegant methods like lock picking and social engineering, but I did not have my lock picks so we were forced to use more imaginative methods… Like the butter knife we had conveniently taken from the pub. We moved in to inspect and realized to our joy that the lock was placed directly in the middle of a very long and flimsy piece of aluminum that made up the frame for the poster to sit it.

An insertion of the better knife and a little twist popped the door open with a “dh-dh-dh-dh” sound that I will never forget. Chucky and I looked at each other, both a little surprised, but in total agreement that the only next step could be to take Ana down, roll her up and put her up Chucky’s sleve. This we did, and in a few short seconds we were off with Ana, having escaped Spanish jail and acquired just about the sweetest bit of travel memorabilia I have ever seen!

Ana now hangs in Chuck’s office down in Greenland NH.

Cool Passport Visas

My passport has expired, and I’m renewing it by mail. You have to send your existing passport to them as proof of identity, and parting with it got me thinking about how cool the stamps that you get at various ports of entry around the world are. I understand that when you renew your passport by mail, they cancel your expired one and return it to you, but they don’t mention that in writing anywhere, so I decided to error on the side of caution and scan the visas I have so that I don’t loose them should the passport agency not return my original passport.

The first one was stamped when I left Boston, MA, again, when I arrived at London Heathrow, and finally when I entered Malaga, Spain. Most of our time that trip was spent in Malaga, and I have to say that I would love to live there. Parties all night, and everyone takes a nap at 11:00 AM. Need I say more?

The second one is my visas from Tanger Morocco. At the time, you could not just go into Morocco on your own. You had to be a part of a designated tour group, which was really just a way for the locals to coordinate their efforts to try to sell you things as the group made its way down the streets.

As we were on the ferry to cross the Straight of Gibraltar, our tour guide, a man who was a little sketchy looking, but spoke about six languages, came by with a trash bag and asked everyone to toss in their passports. OK, I thought, this pretty much runs counter to everything I’ve been told about how to care for my passport, but what the heck… I’m going to Africa. He came back a little later with my passport and the correct visas, but it still had me shaken up for a bit. Nobody wants to end up and the US embassy in Tanger having to explain why you had given your passport to a complete stranger.