Adventures without running water in Madrid – Spain is different

August 2, 2017

I wake up in a pool of sweat.

Wet. Sticky. “Disgusting” would be putting it nicely.

The sun’s first rays are blasting in through the window next to my bed. Another sweltering summer morning.

Something in here smells like death, and it might actually be me.

Can’t rule it out, anyway.

Oh well.

Another day. Back to the grind. The pro blogger hustle.

I delay getting out of bed for about three minutes – time enough to check my Instagram likes and look at a few bikini photos by folks who had the good sense to get out of town – before pulling on a pair of old gym shorts and heading to the kitchen.

Time for coffee.

I grab the little cafetera and turn on the tap…

But it just gurgles and spits a few warm drops.

Uh oh.

Adventures without running water

Last year I spent a whole month without a steady supply of running water.

We had a leaky pipe in the restaurant on the bottom floor of the building, and those of us who lived above were only able to use the water a few hours a day.

Two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening.

More or less.

It was supremely annoying for a couple of days… until I got used to it.

After that it was just embarrassing.

adventures without running water
This building is right here in Tetuán, a couple blocks from my house… and guess what? It recently collapsed. Just a shell now.

Nothing to do but buy a few 5-liter bottles at Mercadona and get familiar with all the public bathrooms in the area.

I had houseguests from the north of Europe who dealt with it pretty well. I tried to assure them that no, Spain isn’t always like this.

Our infrastructure, in fact, rivals that of other semi-civilized countries like Slovakia and Kazakhstan. It’s just my old building that has the problem.

All apologies.


Flashback over, we return to the present

I turn off the tap.

Coffee’s out of the question.

As it turns out, so is a drink of water. I have an empty bottle on the counter. A half glass of wine in a bottle. And some beers in the fridge.

I decide to cut my losses and just drink the wine.

(It’s only half a glass and the bottle’s been sitting open… but cracking open a beer at 8 AM is still too much drunkenness even for Mr Chorizo.)

Bottoms up!


Turns out 2 euro wine isn’t improved by sitting open for a day.

Ok, well, let me just go wash my face and go to a café for breakfast.

Oops, can’t wash my face – or anything else.

No water.

Well, at least let me do something about my hair. I look like an escaped mental patient, with half of it sticking up on the side.

Oops, can’t.

Once again, no water.

Man, I really gotta take a dump.

Oops, can’t.

You get the idea.

Running water is something you never think about until it’s suddenly gone. Do I really turn on the tap 100 times a day, or does it just seem like there are a hundred things I can’t do the second the water supply’s cut off?

On the upside, I’ve discovered what smells like death – it’s all the inedible parts of yesterday’s chicken, that are rotting in the garbage can in the 95 degree heat.

Thank God for the little things. ‘Cause that I can just throw out.

Guess there’s nothing to do but put on some pants and get out of the house…

Escaped mental patient hairdo and all.

What would Jocko do?

Recently I’ve been listening to the Jocko Podcast, where Jocko Willink – former Navy SEAL – and his Jiu Jitsu buddy Echo Charles sit and talk about war for three hours an episode.

War, leadership, squats, business and getting after it.

Think your life’s hard?

Listen to any one of the episodes where Jocko reads about combat, or prisoners of war, or the Holocaust.

(That last one I couldn’t even listen to, even though it’s about one of my all-time favorite books.)

Think The Exorcist is scary?

Listen to Jocko reading Hamlet.

His delivery is amazing. And terrifying.

One of my favorite moments from a recent episode: I guess somebody asked the question about what to do if they “don’t have time to work out”.

And Jocko said something like, “What do you mean you don’t have time? How long does it take to do a couple hundred pullups? You can knock that out in 15 minutes!”


Maybe he can. For me, a couple hundred pullups would be 4 to 5 weeks’ work. But knowing that somewhere out there, there’s a guy who can do that in 15 minutes is pretty damn inspiring.

A guy in his late 40s, no less.

Gives me the feeling I’m doing nothing with my life.

Which quickly transforms into the urge to do much, much more.

Finally leaving the house…

I spend the morning getting after various writing projects in the lobby of the hotel down the street.

I make some progress on my SEO goals.

At some point, I find that my online arch-nemesis is outranking me on Google with some really bad articles in barely-comprehensible English

Google is a fickle mistress. Maybe it’s the algorithm.

But that’s just an excuse.

My online arch-nemesis must be crushed.

Game on.

no running water in madrid
Dilapidated in Puerto de Santa María, Andalucía. (Actually, most of the town looked like this.)

As Jocko would say, the enemy is out there. He’s been up since 4 AM. He’s cleaning his machine gun. He’s doing pushups on the floor of his cave (or his shitty sublet). He’s sitting on his heels, rocking back and forth, picking out the best keywords for Google and contemplating how to destroy you.

In other words: he’s been getting ready for battle all morning.

Battle with you.

Or me.

Some day you’ll meet your enemy. And then, the only question is… will you be ready?

Not the most positive thoughts to have on a Wednesday morning.

But then again…

Life is not a Huggies commercial

In fact, I’d say there’s more of the Darwinian struggle for survival still going on than most people are comfortable admitting. It’s dog eat dog out there.

And the struggle inspires me.

The obstacles.

As Jocko would say, GOOD.

Bring it.

I get home and the plumber is downstairs. He says we’ll have limited water today, and the whole thing could be solved in “a few days”.

Of course, on Spanish time that could be weeks.

(Don’t believe me, just ask any Spanish person. In these parts, mañana means whenever I feel like it – how ’bout next Friday? Or maybe September?)

In any case, I’ve had a good morning writing, and I realize that the low level of irritation – no water plus the urge to crush my online arch-nemesis – has made me feel like going to do a hard workout.

I’m still sweaty from last night, and probably won’t be able to shower after, but hey.

There’ll be water again at some point.

Keep in mind that I don’t really believe in “wanting” to work out.

I hardly ever “want” to work out. And listening to your body is bullshit. ‘Cause my body just wants to sit around and eat donuts.

But then I imagine what I’m going to look like in 10 years if I stop now…

And I go do it anyway

Because the horror.

The horror.

A few minutes later I’m in the park – just a sweaty guy in a dirty t-shirt who still looks like an escaped mental patient.

But this time in running shoes.

After a short warmup, I’m sprinting along one edge of the park like my life depends on it.

Actually, I always imagine it’s the Stone Age and there’s a sabertooth tiger after me. My tribe is at home hungry. And if the sabertooth catches me, it’s over for them too.

The image gets me running a little bit faster, 100% of the time.

I sprint till I’m about to pass out in a puddle of my own vomit. Then I drop down on the grass for a few sets of pushups and some mobility work.

It’s pushing 100 degrees now, and I’m the only one exercising in the park. A few cute couples are having picnics in the shade, but most inhabitants of this ghost town are staying home till dark – or already on vacation.

By the time I get home again, I’m feeling the burn. And the plumber announces he’s turning on the water for half an hour.

Guess I’ll be getting that shower after all.

Life is good, folks.

Soaking wetly yours,

Mr Chorizo.

P.S. Did I really just write 1400 words about having no water today? Guess so. Are there going to be people who don’t like this article? Probably. Know what? GOOD. Hit me up in the comments and tell me what you think.

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About the Author Daniel

How did I end up in Spain? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? Excellent questions. With no good answer... Anyway, at some point I became a blogger, bestselling author and contributor to Lonely Planet. So there's that. Drop me a line, I'm happy to hear from you.

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  1. Mañana, en cinco minutitos, cuando tenga un rato… This could mean five real minutes or five months, is a secret language. Only a Spaniard could understand. Don’t even try.

  2. Nice article! It’s incredible how after living in Spain for so long we’re still here. In my case, I’ve been here 3 years and stupidly thought I would ever adapt. Whether Spanish like it or not, most of them, and I’m not saying all of them, but, most of them are rude, especially in the summer. Waiting for a flood of hate comments, haha! Nice and funny article, though. Following you!

    1. Thanks Emil! I’m not gonna say most of them are rude, but maybe you could read my article about customer service for my opinion… thanks for commenting 🙂

  3. Hi Daniel,

    Enjoyed your article a lot!

    I really miss Madrid, haven’t been back there since 2005.

    Good luck with the Fontanero; hope that they fix the problem really soon. How is your calefacción? I’ve had friends living in old buildings and having problems with heating in winter.

    All my best,


  4. Hello Daniel,
    Having lived in a small town in Andalucia until I was 15, where my father was a rural Veterinarian, I know exactly what you are talking about and I agree with you about the Spanish MANANA….veeeery slow. We came to Brooklyn in 1956 and at that time no one had running water, yet those years in Albanchez and Albox (Almeria) were truly my happiest years, but I also love living in the USA. I have been back a total of nine times, some of the times for long periods, also with my husband, with my 3 children, and the last time in 2009. Each time I saw advances in the standard of living and the betterment of the housing, but when it comes to your complains, including customers service and any other type of service, I am in complete agreement.
    I am still in touch with all my friends, thanks to emails and the telephone, and I am looking forward to returning for another visit.
    I enjoy your writings and the truth with which you describe my beloved Spain. Thank you.

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