Walked: 20.1 Km


I can smell my shirt. It smells like feet. I opened the door of the dryer and the smell of damp feet hit me like a ton of bricks. An older gentleman came from behind me, looking for his shoe insoles, seemingly oblivious to the smell it would leave on the rest of the clothes.

“That was a terrible thing to do, now everything smells like feet”, I told him. He didn’t seem to understand, and was more concerned about finding the fourth insole which was still missing. “Don’t ever do that again, it stinks all the clothes”, I insisted, but he didn’t say anything about it.

I had talked to him earlier, his name was José, he came from Colombia, though he had lived in the Basque Country for the last 20 years. His accent was completely unchanged and he expressed pride in not having learned a word of Basque, except for a couple of words which most pilgrims pick up walking through this region.

He said that he had been an ambulant merchant back in Colombia. These are people who carry trinkets to sell on the streets. Here in Spain, he worked as a maintenance worker for the city council in the town he lived, sweeping floors and picking up trash. He had two daughters which came from Colombia as teenagers, and now he had four grand children born in Spain.

I liked him a lot. He had a good heart, and would not speak ill of anything except the insecurity he lived in his country. But now he perfumed everybody’s clothes with Eau de José. As the hospitalera had asked us to put the clothes on a rack so that they would finish drying in the air, I came down with him to the racks.

He wanted to hang all his clothes together, but he couldn’t make out his underwear from other people’s underwear. Then, after a third pass closely inspecting underpants, he proudly held a pair of boxers and declared he had found them. I told him those were mine. He insisted, by his method of discarding the other ones, he had come to the pair that was most likely to be his.

“It’s not these ones, not these ones either, or these ones, so it has to be these”. It was a logically valid argument: in a universe composed of A, B, and C, if it’s not A and B then it’s C. But a second observer happens to break that logic: “Look, it says medium here, are you size medium?”, he looked at his oversized waistline and replied that he didn’t know.

I realized his concern was more logistical than one of property. I always carry an extra pair of underwear, so I told him “well, if they fit you, then they are probably yours, try them on and let me know”.

He came out of the bathroom a couple of minutes later, smiling. “Yes, they are mine!”. And now I not only stink of feet, but I’m living on the edge regarding underwear.