“That one’s free and it’s perfect,” he said, pointing to the last available table at the little restaurant overlooking the sea. The table was right at the sea wall where the waves broke over, a perfect backdrop to the view over the crystal clear water. We’d been walking all day in the glaring sun, liters of water consumed, energy sapped, sweating so hard we looked like we’d gone swimming in our clothes. That little table at the only restaurant we’d seen for miles was like an oasis in the desert; a place to rest our legs, sip on a cocktail that looked like a parrot’s ass and refuel for the long walk home.

But Frank’s loud proclamation at the perfection of the table drew the attention of the couple that had come in behind us. And their eyes were also set on that perfect little spot by the sea wall.

We’d already started wending our way towards the spot but couple number two must have never heard of first come, first serve. They almost broke an old woman’s neck as they vaulted towards the little table, bouncing several ladies’ handbags off the sides of chairs and knocking waiters out of the way in their haste. We picked up the pace when we spotted their intentions from the corners of our eyes, but we couldn’t match their determination. They Usain Bolted to the spot and sat down comfortably in what should have been our chairs, not even bothering to hide the triumphant smirks on their faces as we stood beside the now occupied table, our mouths open in disbelief.

We looked at each other, at the table thieves now studiously ignoring us, at the water, unsure of what to do next. Should we wait? Should we move on? We were so tired and hungry! Luckily a trio of gaggling girlfriends had finished their lunch and mojitos and left their table free. It wasn’t right at the sea wall but it was undercover from the unforgiving Spanish sun and had a great view of the water. It also had a direct view of our table usurpers, which ended up being the best source of lunch entertainment money could buy.

You see, there was a reason that one table had been free in this packed restaurant.

It started out with a few small waves breaking over the side of the wall. The cold water gently sprayed the couple’s feet, refreshing in this hot weather. By the time their drinks arrived, the breaking water had begun splashing their legs as well – still a cool reprieve from the heat, although they shifted their table back just a little.

As we started in on our appetizers, the waves splashed bigger, higher, wetter somehow, over the sea wall, splashing the top of their table and wetting their pants and skirt. They scootched back a little more, their laughter now a little more nervous, ours a little more merry. They were trying to keep it together as the sea encroached further and further into their space, well aware that we were watching, carefully avoiding looking in our direction.

Then, a massive wave kaplooshed over the wall, knocking his drink into into her lap. “Oh!” she exclaimed as he rushed to mop her up with his napkin, giggling uneasily as they pulled the table back just a little more.

By the time we were tucking into our paellas, her legs were glistening with salty water, his pants looked like he had waded through a flood, and their table top was a mess – sopping wet napkins and bits of food from their plates strewn everywhere.

They moved the table back just a bit more.

Then, with a mighty crash like thunder, the biggest wave yet burst forth from the ocean, slamming the sea wall with the force of an army. The wall of water was like a beast, the couple its prey, and with a big old SPLOOSH! it drenched the pair from head to toe. She shrieked in surprise, he bellowed in rage as they leaped from the table. A few patrons applauded, some twittered behind their hands, a little kid pointed and guffawed loudly.

Frank only turned to me and said “You know, schatz, schadenfreude is the best kind of joy.”

Looking like two drowned rats, they frantically grabbed their soaking wet things and hustled inside to pay their bill, their half-eaten dinners swimming in the salty pool on the table top.

And us?

Bellies full, feet rested, warm and dry as a bone, we sat back and watched the Spanish sun as it slowly sank into the sea.