Friday, February 20, 2004

A week or so ago, I rejected ‘inefficient’ as the defining adjective for how things are in Spain, in preference for ‘piecemeal’. I am now wondering whether I was right.

In September of last year, my daughter - under my medical insurance scheme - went to see an allergist. In late January, an amount was deducted by the company from my bank account. I took this to be my ‘excess’ [or ‘franchise’] but I was puzzled that it was five times more than usual. I have been meaning to go and talk to them for a couple of weeks now but haven’t got round to it. And then today, I received a letter from the company – dated 3 January – itemising the total.

So…. 3 months to prepare the bill, 4 months to collect a fee and 4.5 months to send me the letter justifying the fee already collected. Meaning, of course, a delay of 45 days between the preparation and despatch of the letter. And this is one of Spain’s biggest and, one would hope, most efficient companies.

Worst of all, the bill is completely wrong. It itemises 3 visits to the allergist on one day in September. One could be forgiven for thinking that someone in the company might have noticed that this was rather odd. Anyway, getting things corrected will now certainly involve a visit to their offices, as we all know that a letter would be a waste of time. But then that is what time is for in Spain, it sometimes seems to me.

As a consolation for Spanish readers who take offence at my comments, this episode has motivated me to write a response to the criticism that I am too negative about Spain. See Spain v. The Rest of The World on my webpage –

The President of the Galician government, Mr Fraga, emerged unscathed from a traffic accident yesterday. Mind you, this was not a total surprise as he was being chauffered in an armoured Audi A8. The occupants of the two cars his ploughed into were not quite so lucky, being somewhat less protected. The accident happened when a car coming the other way both ignored the frantic waving of the President’s police protection and then crossed a solid white line to make a blatantly illegal turn. The reported reaction of Mr Fraga was to suggest that the curves on the road needed ‘improving’. Once again, I am lost as to where the logic is here, specifically how a straighter road would improve the driving of a congenital idiot. But this is why Mr Fraga, at 86, is still a powerful politician and I am not. And never will be.

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