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Time, Toilet paper and 2020

Updated: Jan 31, 2021

When I walked the Camino de Santiago in 2011, I did not bring a phone because this was to be a time to reflect and simply walk. Albeit a long walk – 500 miles - but still, a walk. There are also internet cafes in Europe and across the Camino so I knew I would be connected. That and the fact that thousands of other people from around the world would be walking the route with me.

But I did wear a watch. One of those digital ones with 4 buttons only a few of which I understood. I am not the best with technology, but I did change the time when I arrived in Madrid and nothing else. Or so I thought.

When I finished the walk a little over a month later, and met a friend in Madrid, she said to me, your watch is going off. I said, no it’s not. She said, yes, it is. So, I raised my left arm up to my ear (I can picture it to this day) and heard – much to my chagrin - a high pitched intermittent beep. She helped me turn it off although it went off again the next morning (early) and again she turned it off.

And then I thought: When the young/fellow pilgrim German girl sitting next to me in the Cathedral de Santiago poked me and pointed to my left arm, she was right. I shrugged it off as her noticing that my watch was flashing. Now I realized that that had been happening at different intervals since the day in Madrid when I fiddled with all those dials and thought all I did was reset the time.

Every morning when I woke up in an albergue the alarms would sound early and we would think, why do they have to disturb us? Now I knew that I was one of “them”. My little watch flashed and buzzed and probably woke up my fellow pilgrims. Or at least those who could hear high pitches.

I felt like the proverbial person leaving the public bathroom with toilet paper stuck to her shoe and not knowing it until someone – probably at a business luncheon to make it more embarrassing – notices it.

Why time, toilet paper, and 2020?

There are the obvious answers like all the toilet paper we bought, but I think there’s more. Last year was hard. Really hard. When we turned the corner into 2020 we had expectations and plans that suddenly changed. We got through it with each other and sometimes – sorry – in spite of each other. We toughed it out and made it through our Camino, but maybe with a bit of toilet paper still stuck to our shoes to remind us to be humble. And pay attention to people who try to tell us something we may not want to hear.

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