As I’ve blogged before, we were very lucky to have a friend "on the ground" in Madrid who helped make our transition as smooth as possible. With her help, at the end of our first week in Spain, we already had a house lined up and our furniture was scheduled to be delivered the next Tuesday. Since that was about ALL we could set up for the week, it left our Saturday free for more leisurely pursuits. We thought...let's go into the city! Everyone was excited, Tiff with her kids and us with ours. We loaded up her van and set off for the metro. We enjoyed the world outside the window as the metro headed for downtown. We would start off at the Palacio Real. This is the Royal Palace, in which the King of Spain sometimes works, but where the Royal family no longer resides. Strange, but true. It is beautifully ornate...very impressive as all palaces should be. You can take a tour of the palace, but we decided to save that for another day...being here for three years affords us that luxury at least. So we gave the palace the “Clark Griswold Once Over”...Yep, that's the palace...and moved on. Then, we walked over to the Royal Gardens next door..."Beautiful, beautiful, wish you were here," (another movie reference). This is from one of my favorites, French Kiss. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.
The original plan for our afternoon in Madrid was to take an open air bus ride around the historic sections of the city. We planned to pick up the bus at the Palacio Real, but it was too crowded. There weren’t even two seats together, much less seven. We hoped to catch it somewhere else along the route. This meant walking, which, of course, the kids had NOT signed up for. They were supposed to be going on a bus ride. It all started going downhill from there. It was a warm and sunny Saturday in the city (translation--HOT and BLINDING). Husband, Tiff and I were having a great time walking through the city. We loved the sights and sounds as well as all of the beautiful architecture. For the kids, or should I say, for my kids, it was not so fun. In fact, to quote them, "It was boring." They kept asking when we were going to get there. We told them that we WERE there. This was it. We were walking through this wonderful city. That did it…They hit the wall! They were hot…out of water…hungry...they wanted to go to McDonalds, or Burger King, or Baskin Robbins, which we kept seeing everywhere, by the way. Husband was determined that we were not going to go to downtown Madrid for the first time in our lives and eat at McDonalds. He also reminded the kids that we all had just eaten before we left the house so they shouldn't be hungry yet anyway. So we continued walking, and walking and walking. This brought me back to a scene from “French Kiss” again, the one where Meg Ryan is wandering the streets of Paris penniless and without her passort after having her bag stolen in a hotel. Our situation wasn’t that hopeless, but it did bring the scene to mind. French Kiss had a happy ending, so I trudged on, hoping our day would end well too. Then, even Tiff's kids started complaining. They had left THEIR water in the car because they didn't want to carry it around. You gotta love it. As an aside, the prices for an ice cold bottle of water in the city were amazingly reasonable. It was only one Euro. You'd never find an ice cold bottle of water that cheap in any major US city. Seven wanted to go up to the newsstand all by himself and purchase a bottle of water using his Spanish, which he did. It was so cute and we were really proud.
With eating off the agenda, Tiff thought the kids might like to go to the park and play. She suggested the Parque del Retiro. So we thought about walking there, decided it was just too far for the kids to walk, and hopped on the metro instead. The park itself is a beautiful oasis full of fountains, shady spaces, a playground, and according to Tiff, the occasional amorous couple under a blanket. Thankfully, we saw none of those. Whew! The kids laid eyes on the ultra cool playground and suddenly, they weren’t hot, hungry or thirsty anymore. Funny how that happens, huh? They ran out onto what Eleven dubbed a "Modern Art Playground." It's what you would imagine a playground in Europe to look like, if, that is, you ever thought about playgrounds when you thought about Europe. It was sleek and modern. The pieces of equipment looked like sculptures, only they moved and you could jump all over them. The kids had a blast while we tried to figure out what to do next. It was too late in the afternoon to start the 17 Euros per adult, 8 Euros per child bus ride. And now that everyone really was hungry, we weren't near any restaurants. Even if we were, they'd soon be closed. It was too late for lunch and too early for dinner, so we settled on ice cream in the park for around three Euros per pop. As the kids wolfed down the ice cream, Husband, Tiff and I all started making little comments about how we didn't think this was how the afternoon was going to go. "Why were we here? Who wanted to go to the park? I thought we were going to eat! Of course, we weren't going to eat. Well, I thought we were going on a bus ride." We were all irritated and didn’t really know what to do next. We had three adults and fours kids and not a one of us with the same idea about what we wanted to do. It was then that I realized we had tried to go to Madrid and ending up in Abilene. For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, I didn’t either until joining my Husband's clan. Every time the family got together at Husband's house, and we were trying to decide what to do, Husband's Mom would say, "Okay, do we really want to do this? I don't want to go to Abilene." I thought this was a very strange thing to say seeing as how they lived in Virginia. I also couldn’t understand why they kept picking on Abilene. Finally I asked her about it and she was shocked. "You mean you've never heard of the Abilene Paradox??" When I said I had not, she told me all about it. Now I don’t want to go there either, in the figurative sense, anyway.
Here’s what Wikipedia.com has to say about the “Abilene Paradox:” The Abilene paradox is a paradox in which a group of people collectively decide on a course of action that is counter to the preferences of any of the individuals in the group. It involves a common breakdown of group communication in which each member mistakenly believes that their own preferences are counter to the group's and, therefore, does not raise objections. A common phrase relating to the Abilene paradox is "rocking the boat."
The Abilene paradox was introduced by management expert Jerry B. Harvey in his article The Abilene Paradox and other Meditations on Management. The name of the phenomenon comes from an anecdote in the article which Harvey uses to elucidate the paradox:
On a hot afternoon visiting in Coleman, Texas, the family is comfortably playing dominoes on a porch, until the father-in-law suggests that they take a trip to Abilene [53 miles north] for dinner. The wife says, "Sounds like a great idea." The husband, despite having reservations because the drive is long and hot, thinks that his preferences must be out-of-step with the group and says, "Sounds good to me. I just hope your mother wants to go." The mother-in-law then says, "Of course I want to go. I haven't been to Abilene in a long time."
The drive is hot, dusty, and long. When they arrive at the cafeteria, the food is as bad as the drive. They arrive back home four hours later, exhausted.
One of them dishonestly says, "It was a great trip, wasn't it?" The mother-in-law says that, actually, she would rather have stayed home, but went along since the other three were so enthusiastic. The husband says, "I wasn't delighted to be doing what we were doing. I only went to satisfy the rest of you." The wife says, "I just went along to keep you happy. I would have had to be crazy to want to go out in the heat like that." The father-in-law then says that he only suggested it because he thought the others might be bored.The group sits back, perplexed that they together decided to take a trip which none of them wanted. They each would have preferred to sit comfortably, but did not admit to it when they still had time to enjoy the afternoon.
So, what did we do when we found ourselves in Abilene...we went home. We went back to Tiff's, relaxed in the pool, had some dinner, and went to bed! Hasta luego...