When I’m eating out I very rarely draw attention to the fact I have diabetes. There have been occasions where I have quietly asked a waiter for some juice to come out quickly to treat a low blood sugar. Whenever I’ve done this, the juice has arrived quickly – no questions asked and that’s it! But usually, I don’t do anything that would indicate that my pancreas has been on holidays for the last 15 and a half years.

So it was with some amusement – and surprise – on the second night in Barcelona when a waitress told me she couldn’t help me out as my BGLs were crashing. To make it more amusing, we were at dinner with three other people with type 1 diabetes.

Here’s what happened.  We sat down at our table, we chatted, we admired the view from the top of the old Bullring and were excited that there would be fireworks once the sun set as part of the La Mercè Festival, we were given menus. I checked my CGM and saw the number 3.1mmol/l (where did that come from?!) combined with an arrow pointing downwards. I reached into my bag only to remember I’d cleared out my hypo supplies earlier that day thanks to low blood sugar that wouldn’t budge. Time zone changes, the warm Spanish weather and a Sunday spent exploring the city and attending a symposium will do that to me!

So, I quietly signalled to a waitress and quietly and politely asked ‘Would it be possible for you to urgently get me an orange juice please?’ She looked at me before answering ‘No!. It will not be possible.’ The look on my face must have been utter confusion (could have been the plummeting BGLs), but the four other people sitting at our table knew why I used the word ‘urgently’ in my request. They all jumped in with calls of ‘She has diabetes’; ‘Her blood sugar is low’ and ‘She needs sugar’.  At the same time they started throwing glucose tabs at me – just to add to the confusion and slapstick routine this was turning into.

Of course, all their calls came at once and were a jumble that barely made any sense, and the waitress just stood there waiting for me to say something else. Calmly, I asked her if it would be possible because I had low blood sugar and needed some sugar.  I was conscious of the language problems (mine – not hers. She spoke perfect English. I speak three words of Spanish and one of those is churros) and didn’t really feel like doing a diabetes education session.

Within a couple of minutes, she returned with a tall glass of freshly squeezed orange juice and gently put it down in front of me.

When I thought about it later, I don’t think she was being rude or difficult. I think the fact that the juice was freshly squeezed meant she couldn’t get it to me urgently – that it would take a few minutes to prepare. Or perhaps she misunderstood what I was asking. But her so very matter-of-fact response of ‘No!’ surprised us all.

I could have become all indignant about how EVERYONE IN THE WHOLE WORLD should understand the needs of people with diabetes, but instead, some quiet and calm explaining did the trick. Juice arrived, BGLs headed in the right direction, paella served and fireworks launched. It was a great night.