‘Life in Ibiza is of the most exhausting you can imagine’ they told me. ‘Make a living on this island is like going through heaven and hell and back and forth’ they told me. ‘If you want to finish first, first you have to finish’ was another one.
What I did not know at my arrival is that they not only were right, it was an understatement.
Twenty years later I find myself at the start of another season, a mixture of melancholy and anticipation conquers my heart and I eagerly await the rush of feelings and emotions, knowing that it will be more than ever a season to explore your mental and physical limits to be able to get beyond and come down safe. Sounds a bit theatric but if you have ever worked a season and stayed the winter you probably know exactly what I am talking about.
It is 06.30 am in the morning, I just left a club because, believe it or not, I had to go out in order to meet people, make contacts and get an overview about what is going on as it forms part of my job. There are so many people already beginning of June it literally feels like August… I know I have to get up in about 4 hours because it is another working day (in Ibiza practically every day is a working day), had a few beers in a few hours so guess I am fine to drive. Passing the endless queue of clubbers on their way home, spending another almost 2 hours to finally grab a cab, I realize that the back window of my car is full of stickers, my wiper is covered in flyers and one of my wing mirrors is broken – bravo. On the main road I get overtaken by a cab at high speed, there is an oncoming car and – another cab comes along passing me in the very last moment. Arriving home I find that the internet is not working, a common problem when too many people use a net that leaves the island in one place – like pulling an elephant through a mousehole.
After a mere four hours sleep I get up as the heat is as sultry as normally in August, it didn’t rain enough during Winter and Spring and the countryside is completely dried out. My neighbour is sprinkling his Brazilian green while he runs around with a leaf blower to get his walkways ‘clean’, the noise is infernal as my house is on a mound and I can anyway hear every word they talk at a distance of almost 100 meters. On top his alarm goes off three times in an hour, god knows why… Besides of the exorbitant (mis)usage of water which I would rather call wastage and the crackbrained habit of using a leaf blower we aren’t best friends anyway as he is the stereotype of a high end resident, proud owner of a huge black english luxury SUV arriving every day at his yate in the harbour to drive over to Formentera just for lunch, to later onwards spend a fortune in a super oh-so-VIP beach club before enjoying sunset at high speed on his way back, boasting later with friends about who had spent more money during the day.
The internet is still not working so I change my plan and drive down to Ibiza to meet a client. Arriving from a camino to the road of San Juan I see a one-way roadsign to the left but cars coming from both directions, screaming at each other about who can drive in what way, covered in dust as the construction works are way behind schedule – mañana mañana… I decide to turn around and escape this unpleasant situation. On my way I pass a supermarket and take the chance to get some food. Leaving the market on the way to my car I see a whole pile of shopping carts blocking the way out of the parking and a lady just putting back hers to get her money out. Taking out my phone to make a picture she looks at me and says ‘I didn’t do that’ – I am overwhelmed by the grade of ignorance the average citizen can reach. I look at her, wait until she is gone and take the picture, it was about 40 of the carts and, scientifically, she was responsible for 2.5 percent of the whole pile, but in reality she is as dumb as each of the others. What is wrong with the people? Shouldn’t a life’s motto be ‘help wherever you see you can help, and you will be helped’?
After 15 minutes I am finally on the main road to Ibiza, arriving at the height of the roundabout of Bambuddha I ask myself the same question as every time I drive down to town – Will the traffic jam of Cana Negreta go up until the go cart race track? If so I should take the other road via Puig d’en Valls, it takes me about 10 minutes longer, but surely not more… I decide to take the risk and drive down the main road, it looks good until – out of the blue – the traffic jam manifests right in front of me (it only takes a few cars to break irregularly and a traffic jam becomes reality). Where the road from Sta. Gertrudis joins the main road another daily battle takes place, in any civilized country the ‘zipper’ method is used to let traffic flow when two roads meet, here it seems that everybody is too busy looking at their smartphones, does not even care or even worse, blocks the other one on purpose letting go of the misery suffered throughout years of their frustration called life. Passing this point the queue lasts until the red light of Cana Negreta where some kids press the pedestrian button only to see how all cars have to stop. Letting the Bar Toni behind (probably the only place in this whole area really benefitting of this deplorable situation) I enter the provisional roundabout of the back road to Jesus (which is not so provisional, as a cab driver told me it will stay there) when a caterpillar cuts my way from the left and I can not pass him as the traffic from the other side is just as bad, lasting from the bridge of Jesus until here. Finally the caterpillar and I go separate ways as I enter town, a driver in front of me throws his fag out of the window, obviously not caring about anything and not knowing that, since beginning of this year, a driver is not allowed to smoke and can be fined for doing so. Well done, not for the fact that I find it a ridiculous measure to avoid distraction as most drivers are on the phone anyway, but to avoid more fires alongside our roads during summer.
Entering the former Junkie parking lot in town I get an evil smile on my face knowing that during the day the hour is ‘only’ 1.50 Euros, at night they charge double – a somewhat perverted thought but I am truly happy about it because driving around town to find a parking place is nearly impossible. Waiting in a café for a client I read the newspaper back and forth realizing he stood me up without even calling me, quite a common habit but it hurts every single time it happens to me. I see a couple of tourists in front of a parking meter with a disbelieving expression on their faces, I decide to walk over and explain them how to use this supercomputer – ‘you have to first type in your number plate, then press the once green button in order to pay for your stay’ I tell them. The man puts in a few coins and the whole operation is cancelled as the maximum is two Euros for two hours, so the whole process starts over again. ‘By the way, this system is illegal as it violates the protection of personal data, but they decided to leave them operative as the reason behind it is that nobody can share the ticket with the next one entering your parking lot in order to make more money’ I tell them, leaving them behind speechless. Not to talk about the fact that, if you work in town, you not only do not get a plate to be able to park for free or at least a longer period, no way, you as well have to go every two hours in order to renew your ticket.
Another change of plan as my date was cancelled forces me to leave town again, it is way after midday and I realize I didn’t eat a thing as hunger has evolved from a human necessity to some kind of surreal ritual in this unbearable heat. An escape to the beach seems like a way of dealing with the impotence, on top I can’t remember being on a beach for a long time, something somewhat typical if you live on an island in the Mediterranean…
The wish was father to this thought, as it is not only impossible to find a deserted beach even at the beginning of summer, in case you arrive at a beach and once more pay a fortune to park your car, you find yourself immersed in a sea of beach loungers and sunshades with a beefy guy running up to you in order to charge at least some 20 Euros for both. And if this takes place somewhere in the district of San José it could even be a lot more as most of the licenses to exploit the loungers got sold to a convicted druglord from South America, leaving local families without their yearly income because they were outbid by a man who will charge you a fortune to get his investment back, which might be black money anyway.
After having to explain myself that I really do not need lounger nor shade I want to go for a swim and realize the water is full of red medusas, fact that seems to leave some parents cold as their kids run around in the water. Impossible to lecture them all I decide to finally get some food when I realize that this is a bad idea as the whole crew of the beach restaurant changed again because the wages were too low for the workers in order to be able to afford an overpriced apartment and pay everything to live a decent life, as a result I don’t know any of them. But I was hungry – the common technique to turn around when a client wants to place his order is a very typical habit in Spanish gastronomy but I insist so finally the waiter arrives, takes my command and – never shows up again. Business as usual I think, still smiling, so I leave the beach only to find myself in another traffic jam, and it’s not even sunset…
A car without gasoline does not work, but arriving at the gas station I find a huge bulk of cars waiting to get a place in no particular order with two of the first rows empty but no way to get through. Waiting for a free place I look at the pricelist and wonder why the same gasoline is one price one day, another one the other day, and not only a few cent but often a notable rise and, obviously a lot more rare, a decline. One guy tries to pull the hose trigger several times to refill his rental car getting slightly angry while the lady working at the station tries to tell him to put the hose back and come in to pay first, then refill. Clever as I am I leave my car, walk into the station while the guy in front of me is still refilling and pay my load, but as I get back to my place the one behind overtook me and was about to fill his tank with my diesel. The fact that his car was gasoline and my face made him stop and go back to behind my car so I finally get to pull the hose and – pour diesel all over me as the hose was not empty from the gentle person using it before me. ‘How low can you go?’ I ask myself, completely lost as this whole day seems to rinse down my hands like sand on a beach I decide to drive back home, finally eat something and hopefully find the internet operative to get going with the initial job I had in mind this morning.
Arriving home there is no electricity as the cables are being renewed in my area and something must have gone wrong, leaving me with two fridges and a freezer full of food slowly heating up and, obviously, no internet… Calling to Gesa (the company in charge of the electrical supply) I am being told that the reparation has finished this morning (I didn’t even know it was taking place) and that I have electricity at home… ‘No’ I say, ‘I stand in front of my house and there is no power’ – the answer is ‘We can give you the number of our emergency service, but this is at your own cost’ so I decide to wait, finding myself in total silence, no chance to work on my computer, and both fridges getting warmer and warmer. Feeling more helpless than ever I decide to take a nap, and guess what? I once more forgot to eat something… The heat at 5 pm is already oppressing, but as I wake up a few hours later I feel like being run over by a truck, the sun went down and there is no light (not even at the end of the tunel…). The optimist I am I go a round in the house to light some candles, finding the situation almost romantic, until the phone rings… The call comes from a good friend and promoter, it was the opening night and I had the duty to go and see him – we are family. Still being early I decide to take a shower, get ready and leave the (dark) house but – no electricity, no water. Yeah right, a lick and a promise should do the job, brushing my teeth and some gel give me hope that this day will have a happy ending.
Not far away from home there is a good restaurant where the possibility of having a decent lunch (yes I was all of a sudden very aware that I had eaten nothing during the last 24 hours) was very realistic, or at least I thought so. The food was excellent, but to even get started I already had to drink 3 beers and one welcome chupito – Limoncello – biiiig mistake…. Next inconvenience was the music. Playing a restaurant does not mean to feed your ego as you would play in front of 5.000 clubbers at peaktime on a main stage, it needs some sensitivity and a ‘as-perfect-as-possible’ knowledge of the music you got, at best honed over many years of experience. To read the audience is step two, you obviously can not rock a restaurant, to make people shake a leg under the table might be the best result you get out of this gig, so accept it and go with the flow. Considering myself a member of the same profession I first and (worst) always – and I mean always – have at least one ear listening to what music is being played and how, and if the selection is careless and the mixes are, if anything, rudimentary my heart breaks more with every wrong beat. As nowadays everybody seems to be DJ and can (almost) get away with some decent equipment by pressing the Sync button hoping that the machine will do miracles it is no wonder that the payment for a gig in such establishments can easily be less than two free drinks, discrediting a whole professional branch while torturing an audience you are ‘paid’ to entertain.
After another two beers and a second chupito – ‘this time no Limoncello for me’ I insist – as a good foundation for a night out I decide to leave this musical solitude and reach out to listen to some real beats in a real club. At the last roundabout before arriving to the club I see three cars coming closer from three directions, one being the classic Ibizencan car and driver, one a rental car with a whole family inside and another one with loud music, packed with clubbers on their way to warm up for the night. This is a recipe for desaster I think by myself, the Ibizenco having all time in the world, the tourist not knowing where to go as the roadsigns are written in Catalan (the language of Cataluña) and his island plan is in Castellano (means Spanish) plus he probably never took a roundabout in his life, and the careless clubber only having in mind to not run into a police control – you don’t need to be a clairvoyant to foresee the possible catastrophic outcomes of this encounter… Happy that nothing happened I drive along the highway, passing endless cars parked in second lane to my right, they call it ‘botellón’ here and gather before entering a club on the parking lot listening to music and drink as much as they can in a short period as the price of one longdrink in a club can easily excel the cost of a whole bottle of spirit plus all lemonade and a few plastic cups to ‘get into the groove’.
As it is the opening night and I meet some friends in order to get them all in we have to take the long way and queue up at the guest list. The perceived time is about 3 hours until we reach the beautiful lady at the computer and we finally get to enter dancefloor heaven, or that is what it’s supposed to be. After a rigorous body check we arrive on the first dancefloor, realizing that, due to it being the opening night, the club is rammed with people. Different floors do not help to be able to move, on top you can’t see the floor anyway when there are too many people and invisible steps can be all but amusing. Losing all my friends came next, so I decided to visit the booth and show my respect as one of my friends comes back looking at me with two beers in his hand. He tells me he went up to another floor, passed a security and arrived at a tiny bar right next to the main dancefloor where he ordered two beers and two chupitos. After the drinks were served he took out a 100 Euro note and put in on the bar, the girl behind took the note and both looked at each other, him waiting for the change and her waiting for… ‘Is there something wrong?’ he asked, and she answered him politely ‘there are 20 Euros missing’. And you know what he did? He pulled out another note of 20, gave it to her and left with the drinks. ‘Are you mad??’ I ask him, ‘why didn’t you give back the drinks, took back your money and left? This was for sure some special VIP bar where you shouldn’t even be able to get there…’ ‘I was too perplexed and took off’ he replied. The two chupitos obviously didn’t make it very far, but looking at the beer he gave me I think ‘wow, this is about 40 Euros then’. Don’t get me wrong, this is not the standard price at any bar in the club, there you ‘only’ pay 23 Euros for a longdrink – WTF?
Finally united with all my friends one of them tells me his story – he paid a drink with a 500 Euro note, put the change in the small pocket in front of his jeans and, as he went to the bar to get another one, he realizes the money is gone, stolen in the crowd. There were a few more incidents that same night and, as I heard later, it happens in a lot more places. Lesson to learn? Never leave your money unattended in a club or any where lots of people come together and the capacity is exhausted, nor your phone or anything worthy, and if you see somebody stealing go get a security immediately.
It is 06.30 am – again – history repeats, I just lived another trivial 24 hours on Ibiza and, believe it or not, I loved it. All of it. From the bottom of my heart. With all its crazy people, fucked up minds, the ignorant and egoistic ones as well as all the true friends, great spirits and the love I got introduced to on (and by) this island. I could go on forever, obviously this day was a fictious one (or not) and any similarities with living persons or places are totally fictious too (or not), but I somehow will have to bring this monster article to an end. If you have read it all through and still like the idea of not only coming as a tourist but make a living here then you are very welcome to join the club, you have been carefully introduced by now, the rest is up to you.
The essence of living in Ibiza is to cherish life in all its colours, shades and shapes, to be very well prepared to make a living and be ready to leave everything else behind. The reward is to get to know yourself so much more and enrich your life to an extent you, and only you, set up. Despite the whole craze and ‘fear and loathing’ Ibiza is an example of a peaceful co-existence of many different cultures, and it will always maintain its original spirit. If you do good you will be recompensated, but if you feel you don’t belong here then better leave today than tomorrow, this is only for the brave.