Europe Trip Journal – Entry 17: Separation of Concerns


The night was awful. While the hostel I stayed at in Madrid was super cheap, my room mates where hell. There was a group of 6 or more travelers from some Spanish speaking country abroad. Another room mate told me they were jet-lagged and that he was expecting them to keep us all awake for a long time. He wasn’t wrong.

First, those people were on their phones doing face time calls with their relatives – in bed and without head phones – until like 2am. Any reasonable person would go to the community area for that! Then at some point they stopped the phone calls, but kept talking to each other while it was already way past resting time. And it was not like it wasn’t apparent that people tried to sleep and were annoyed of them. When they finally stopped talking they kept playing games on their phones (with sound obviously). And -of course – when they finally fell asleep they soon started snoring.

At 6am or so one of their alarms went of for 20 minutes while they did not wake up from it. Finally I had enough so I stood up and started poking the owner of the alarm to wake him up. It took quite a bit of effort and they took some time to realize that I was pointing at their smartphone.

While I was already making up plans for revenge – like start a phone call at 9am in the morning just to pay them back in their own coin, surely they were planning to sleep until at least 11:00 – they got up at 8:30 and started loud conversations with another. Another Spanish speaking guest luckily stopped them and asked them – rather aggressively – to keep it quiet and let others sleep. I wasn’t surprised if that guest learned Spanish over night just for the whole purpose of telling them to shut up in the morning.

Later I went to the train station and got my reservation for the train to Barcelona. I was so tired that I fell asleep multiple times during the ride, but unfortunately the seat was really uncomfortable, so the whole trip felt awfully elongated.

Finally in Barcelona I checked into my hostel and then went out to meet with M. She had extended her stay in Barcelona for a few days, so we were able to meet up a second time after my last stay in the city. We wandered around for some time, looking for a place to get some breakfast. We settled for an espresso and some bocadillos at a small café. Later another friend of M. called I’. joined us (I’m using scientific notation here, because I. and I’. are actually different people).

We wandered a bit further and eventually ended up outside a bar where we ordered 3 beers. To our delight, we also got a glass full of what apparently was un-popped, but fried corn. It tasted like popcorn, but was actually crunchy – but not hard – corn.

Soon our conversation went into that slightly weird category of questions would ask people you had just met, but that were perhaps a bit too intimate for closer friends. You know, questions that benefit from a certain degree of anonymity and distance. We talked about past relationships and whether we could see ourselves getting married or having kids.

At some point I got asked whether my past relationship had been monogamous. Out of affect I said yes, but really this is only half the truth. While I was only meeting my partner, she was meeting someone else too. I was aware of this, as we had discussed it openly and I was okay with that. At least rationally. The fact that today I wasn’t answering the question of whether my relationship was monogamous truthfully tells me that part of me potentially hadn’t been, or at least wasn’t fully okay with it.

I haven’t really talked publicly about this to anyone. Maybe I was having superstitions that people would see me as unmanly. Maybe I didn’t want to make personal relations with “unflexible” relatives more complicated.

After we had finished our beer and were running out of topics to talk about, it was time to get back to our hostels. Since we were all staying in separate places it was once again time for me to say farewell to M. for a second time. And so we parted ways and I was left with my thoughts.

In software design there is the concept of separation of concerns. Responsibilities of a program would be separated into different modules and each module would have a well-defined interface. If one module of a program needs to interact with another module to get it to perform a certain task, it doesn’t really need to care about how the other module does it. It doesn’t need to learn about the techniques that the other module applies or of its philosophy. What’s important is that the job gets done. The fact that modules do not get an insight into the inner workings and most importantly the inner state of other modules is called information hiding.

I think in my personal life I’m subconsciously following the principle of information hiding to quite some extent. I’m uncomfortable when in a super market a friend would loudly state that “that’s the tooth paste you don’t like, isn’t it?”, thereby potentially revealing this information to others. Even if this piece of knowledge is harmless and mundane, I don’t like it getting leaked uncontrollably.

I recently read about a study whose findings were that people tend to swear more easily if it wasn’t in their mother’s tongue. Their rationale was that people associate less emotions with the translations of swear words as they would do with those in their native language. I guess for the same reason it’s easier for me to write about all this in English than it would be in my native language.

The chatter today was a casual conversation with quasi strangers where I could present myself as who I really am, uncorrupted by considerations for other peoples feelings and expectations. Still, realizing that I wasn’t able to be true to myself over my past relationship made me contemplate. Maybe this is somewhat of a coming-out. A confession while it shouldn’t be.

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