I must be totally naive--I'll admit, I am not a sophisticated world traveller, so when I get in certain situations I probably appear as a clueless tourist--not as someone who has lived in the country for nearly four years.
The other day we decided to take a day off--the rest of the country was celebrating Carnival season, and schools were closed. Much to our daughters' delight we took a picnic to the south side of the island, exploring a new town we have never visited.
Doug stayed back at the boat dock and explored the town while the girls and I ventured onto a beach where there weren't many people. I saw some nice beach lounge chairs-- and felt lucky to have found some that were unoccupied. I layed my towel down to take in some sun while Leanna and Rebekah played in the water. We were having a great time.
After about 20 minutes a young girl approached me and said I owed 3 euros (nearly $5.00 US) for using the beach chair. What? That's crazy!! Who ever heard of paying to sit in a chair? I thought she was one of the many panhandlers that pester tourists for money--so I refused to pay. I was not about to be taken advantage of by someone out to make a buck from unsuspecting tourists! I had never paid to sit in a lounge chair before--surely she was trying to pull the wool over my eyes. Afterall, if there was a fee for sitting on the chairs shouldn't they make it clear--and post it somewhere so people know? There were no signs telling of any chair rental fees.
She kept insisting, making me more upset as I was not about to be exploited--afterall, whoever heard of such nonsense--paying money to sit on a chair! In reality, I didn't have three euros in cash, nor did I have any intention on paying. Finally said she would call the police if I didn't pay. Again I looked around for a sign that said there was a fee for the chairs, but there weren't any. I was pretty upset about how this young girl was giving me a hassle, and stood my ground.
We promptly packed up our stuff and left--I was a little ruffled so I stopped in a tourist information office to complain about the young woman that was meandering the beach-- I truly believed she was a fraud. Come to find out, she did work for the city, and yes, there was a fee for the chairs. I defended myself by asking her why they didn't put a sign up telling people about the fee, and she responded that "everyone knows" that the chairs on beaches here in the Canary Islands are not free but rented for a fee. I suggested that it might be a good idea for them to post some signs, and also have the girl wear some type of "identity" badge so people like me would know that they are legitimate city workers.
They found one ignorant American that didn't "know" the rules--and I shudder to think what kind of scene I could have caused if she would have called the police for my refusal to pay! I thought the chairs were placed there for the enjoyment of the people and to promote a beautiful atmosphere to attract tourism. I am thankful that Rebekah and Leanna didn't sit in the chairs--they told me they prefered the sand. I am far too thrifty to pay for the luxury of sitting on a lounge chair--and looking back, now I realize why they were all empty. No one else wants to pay for them either!! I learned my lesson, and from now on I will be much more careful where I sit.