Yesterday we watched and listened as a rather frustrated driver tried to get her car out of the underground garage space in the block of flats opposite ours. Someone had helpfully parked across the entrance, probably while they popped into the supermarket to buy something or just to help someone get the shopping to the car. The frustrated lady driver tried pipping her horn at length, a signal universally recognised here as meaning, “You are blocking me in so get your ****** car out of my way”. Of course, this doesn’t work if the driver of the offending vehicle is out of earshot in the supermarket across the road or in a cafe somewhere. She stopped pipping and had a long conversation with neighbours, passersby and anyone who felt like joining in and sympathising.
Straight away there you have two aspects of the Spanish character: total lack of awareness that parking across a driveway will inconvenience someone else and a willingness to stop and sympathise and offer help when you see someone in difficulty. There’s a kind of blinkered quality, preventing people from seeing the consequences of their actions. It’s what makes them stop and ask a stranger of they need help when they see them studying a map and yet allows them to charge out of shop doorways without looking or stop in the middle of the pavement to answer the phone or have a chat, oblivious of the people who almost bump into them.
And then there’s that other odd contradiction in character. If a Spaniard sees that a traffic light is about to change to red, or indeed has already changed but the pedestrian green is not yet lit up, he puts his foot down and charges across the pedestrian crossing. As a driver he wants to beat the system. But as a pedestrian, he waits patiently for the lights to give him permission to cross, even if the road is completely empty and it’s Sunday morning. Ok, I exaggerate but we see this charming dichotomy all the time.
As regards the pipping lady, I looked out sometime later and her car was gone although the other car was still parked across the entrance. Either she had backed her car into the garage again or she had manoeuvred it around the offending illegally parked vehicle and managed to get out. This would have involved her driving off the edge of the pavement, something to be avoided if possible as the pavements can be quite high and you risk damaging your vehicle. Either way, she was gone.
Now, I read in the Guardian the other day that there are moves afoot to change rules about double yellow lines in the UK. Drivers will be allowed a 15 minute grace period to wait on double yellow lines in order to load cars, picking up from the supermarket or other shops and so on. Here in Vigo, of course, you would need no such relaxation of the law. Drivers double park wherever they want, even on main thoroughfares. I wonder if the same thing happens in cities like Barcelona. It’s partly the fact that the traffic police aren’t really that vigilant about the double parking.
And of course, in small places in the UK where you see few traffic policemen the same thing happens. In our village centre back home no-one takes any notice of the double yellow lines and people park at the bus stop outside the co-op. The attitude seems to be one of, “after all, busses only come every 30 minutes so does it really matter?” Why go to the car park and walk two minutes if you can park illegally at the door of the shop.
The proposed change in the UK is part of a move to regenerate the failing high street, apparently. I am doubtful about the effectiveness of this as many high streets are now mostly full of payday loan shops and places where you can sell the family valuables for instant cash. These used to be called pawn shops but we seem to be too posh for such terms now.
In a newspaper here yesterday I read that between 2008 (start of la crisis) and the end of 2012 the number of shops buying and selling gold went up tenfold, reaching a peak at 87. Imagine that: before 2008 there were 8 or 9 shops carrying out this trade and then suddenly there were 87! Now there has been a fall. There are only 50 left. Only 50!! That still seems a lot to me. One reason is that the price of gold has fallen. Another is that fewer people are selling the family jewels. Maybe they have no family jewels left to sell.
It’s a good job we don’t have to resort to such measures as I don’t have any gold to sell or family jewels or anything of that nature.