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What Goes Down Must Come Up
The adventures at AlteArte continue when things don't always go the way Sara and David hoped. In those times, it's best to take a step back and recalibrate.

Courtesy of Sara Wilson
Sara and David having dinner on a rooftop terrace in Altea.

In order to appreciate the good things in life, you have to experience the bad. In order to enjoy the highs, you have to endure the lows. Five months in and we’ve had our highs and lows, our good days as well as our bad.

We’ve had unexpected incidences that have thrown us off course for a day or more. Like the day that I arrived to open AlteArte, only to be met with a funny smell when I opened the door. Heading upstairs to the stock room, I was alarmed to find liquid on the floor at the entrance. My alarm turned to horror when I opened the door only to be greeted by a floor of broken bottles. Two shelves on the right side had collapsed under the weight of syrups, fruit juice, chocolate and vanilla drinks, and two treasured gourmet truffle oil bottles. It had all come colliding down in a crash landing, leaving the stock room a complete mess and reeking of a pungent combination of caramel syrup and truffle oil. It took hours to clean and the only thing to be grateful about was that the shelves on the opposite wall with all the alcohol hadn’t come down as well.

Other incidences have added unexpected chaos, like when the large fridges containing our bottled drinks got turned off accidentally, resulting in a silently, rapidly growing lake on the other side of the bar. Spending hours mopping up the water was certainly the last thing that we felt like doing at 4:00 in the morning. Or when the coffee machine started leaking water from the bottom and wouldn’t stop until David turned off the water line. We called the coffee provider immediately and expected a response equally prompt, especially since a representative had just been out to fix another problem we were having with the machine. However, a day turned into several and we soon realized that, even though we had signed a contract that stated that the coffee company would provide maintenance of the machine, it didn’t necessarily mean that it would be done promptly or efficiently. Several days turned into weeks, and, before long, we were shopping for a new provider. We finally found one, and nearly a month later, we were back in the coffee business. The only thing to be grateful about in these instances was that these hadn’t happened in the peak of the high season.

We could handle problems when it was one thing at a time, however, there have been days when, unfortunately, the stars aligned just right to ensure that nothing worked. One of those days was two Saturdays ago when we needed everything to work.

Two Saturdays ago, Altea was bustling with people and it finally felt like the long-awaited high season was getting underway. On that day, we should have been performing at high efficiency. Instead, we were limping along as we struggled with failing machines.

Our ice crusher got jammed with the store-bought ice cubes that were too big for the machine. We wouldn’t have had that problem if the machine that makes our ice had been performing correctly, but for weeks we had been struggling to understand why, day after day, it was only half full. So, on that Saturday, when we most desperately needed crushed ice for the mojito orders we were instead crushing ice with our hands until we couldn’t take it any more and halted mojito production altogether.

The lock on our fancy, new, 50 euro cash drawer also broke that day, leaving us struggling to open it each time we needed to make a transaction. We had purchased it just weeks earlier to replace the broken one before it and certainly didn’t expect that it would give out on us so soon.

But perhaps the worst was when the beer on tap started spouting out beer that was 90 percent foam, forcing us to stop serving cañas. And then, to top it all off and make our bad day even worse, a pungent smell started filling AlteArte. We later discovered that fermented beer was coming out of the machine, leaving the floor covered in a thick layer, which is why it smelled so bad.

On that Saturday, there was no way that we could throw in the towel and call it a day. We had to keep going even when everything around us was giving out. But the problems continued the next day when one of the bulbs blew, instantly wiping out the rest of the lights behind the bar with it. When Monday arrived and we were still in darkness but also still dealing with the beer and a new problem—a dishwasher that would leak every time we turned it on because of a blocked pipe (probably clogged from the mint of the heavy mojito production two days earlier)—the mountain of problems was becoming too steep in its ascent. So, instead of clumsily grappling to find our foothold, we thought it best to listen to the universe and take a break.

The bad part about being the boss is that all these technical problems become your problems. The good thing is that we have the power to close when we need to. So we closed early that day and put a sign on the door, and left by 11:00 p.m.

We enjoyed an evening in Altea and saw what the nightlife is like outside of AlteArte. And we ate dinner at the restaurant where two of our regulars work. We sat on the rooftop terrace and let the stress wash away—and we rested. The next day, the electrician came and fixed the lights behind the bar, the beer technician came and fixed our tap, and David was able to unclog the mint from the pipes. We—and AlteArte—were back up and working.

Sometimes, when it seems like everything is going wrong, the best thing to do is stop, recollect and recharge. Even though we lost out on business that day (many of our customers were arriving as we were leaving), we didn’t lose out entirely. After all, it’s only by enduring the bad days that we can fully appreciate the good.

Sara Wilson is currently working as a freelance writer and lives in Altea, Spain with her husband. She has kept a record of her adventures living abroad which you can find here or on her blog: http://sarawilson.wordpress.com. Contact her directly at wilson.sara@gmail.com.

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