Monday, 14 June 2010

On cars and cows and such.

Walking up the road to the railway station recently, I could not help noticing how many of the cars parked at the roadside had bumps, bangs, dents and scratches. Since then I have kept a lookout whenever I go past a line of parked cars. As a rule somewhere between ⅔ and ¾ of cars have been in a collision of some kind: sometimes just a little scratch on the bumper but fairly often rather more than that. Now, I would be really upset if my otherwise smart-looking vehicle had a scratch along one side, a dented wing or a scraped bumper. It’s a good job I don’t have a car here then.

Mind you, you only have to watch people parking around here to realise that such a state of affairs is not really surprising. A driver finds a space (and they are very elusive, it has to be admitted) and eases himself in. If there is a rubbish container in the way he just nudges it along, probably pushing it into someone else’s car as he goes. Often cars are parked in extremely narrow streets where it is necessary to squeeze up close to the wall in order to let other cars get past. No wonder there are scrapes and scratches!

It is quite possible park quite close to a corner and then return to find that someone else has parked directly behind you, about two centimetres behind you in fact, in order to prevent his car from sticking out too much into the road. How do you get out of that parking space then? Not the other driver’s problem! I watched one lady driver in that situation take a photo of the parking situation, leave a note on the other driver’s windscreen and then proceed to wriggle her way out of the parking space. Presumably she had to “nudge” the other car just a little to manage to get out.

Perhaps this goes some way to explaining why Pontevedra province has the most expensive car insurance in Spain, according to the free paper 20 Minutos. Of course, it’s not just to do with parking. The newspaper article tells us that in Galicia as a whole the accident rate is 22% higher than in the rest of Spain and that Pontevedra province occupies the highest position in el ranking de accidentes. Lots of these accidents, as you might expect, involve young drivers but it seems that whereas in the rest of Spain the risk of having an accident tends to go down among drivers aged 35 and over, in Galicia it doesn’t make a lot of difference. In driving gallegos are forever young!

Some people, like a lady driver from La Coruña, hang good luck charms from their rear-view mirror, a practice I have never quite understood. Dangling distracters are surely more likely to cause accidents than prevent them! Anyway, this lady driver from La Coruña had a catapult hanging from her mirror. Her grandfather had made this wooden catapult (un tirachinas – a lovely word, a pebble-thrower or possibly a Chinawoman-thrower!) some 23 years ago and, having got beyond the stage of firing pebbles at tin cans, the lady driver hung it in her car alongside a rosary and a keyring from the Guggenheim in Bilbao. This was obviously a seriously dangly mess hanging from her mirror.

Well, one day her boyfriend dropped her off at work and as he drove back was stopped by the police, who checked his papers and gave the vehicle the once-over. Finding nothing wrong with the car, they spotted the catapult and confiscated it. Carrying a dangerous weapon is an offence and a tirachinas counts as a dangerous weapon! He gave them the sob story about grandad carving the catapult and his girlfriend’s sentimental attachment to said dangerous weapon but all to no avail. They have to pay a 30€ fine and still don’t know whether the confiscated tirachinas will be returned to them.

Finally, here is a novel way of acquiring a new car. In a place called A Penafita early last week, for the third year running, they had a lottery with the delightful name of Caca de Vaca (Cow Pooh). A field was divided into small numbered plots and lottery tickets were sold with the corresponding numbers. Eight cows, labelled with the names of World Cup football teams and various Spanish radio stations were let loose on the field to do what cows do so often. If a cow left its calling card on the plot whose number you had purchased, you won a prize. The “English” cow tried to get disqualified by marking two plots. The “Spanish”/Radio Voz cow kept everyone waiting for almost two hours – typically Spanish some might say – but rewarded the owner of ticket number 1347 with the big prize: a brand new car! How long before it gets scratched?

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