Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It’s hard to think of something more irresponsible than taking the driving test for someone who’s likely to fail it. But this instance of a racket run by and for immigrants is not the first I’ve read of here in Spain in the last few years. As if we didn’t have enough problems with the macho minority on the road..

Talking of driving, I have some problems with the implications of this scheme to pay drivers for being sober. There’s certainly scope for a new racket, I would have thought. Several, even.

And still on this theme . . . Cognitive dissonance is the holding of two opposing views at the same time. One example which seems to afflict Spanish drivers is “Being distracted while you’re driving is dangerous. But it’s perfectly safe for me to use one of my hands to dial a mobile phone number.” So it’s not too surprising that the traffic police, in their relentless pursuit of revenue – and possibly lower mortality and injury statistics – have announced a new crackdown on this frequent offence. Perhaps it’s time to get serious with my idea for a buttonhole camera I can use as I walk into and out of town several times a day.

And talking of mobile phones, mine came in handy today. . . . I was travelling down to the supermarket car-park in the lift when the electricity failed and it stopped between floors, in pitch darkness. This was a little worrying, especially as I could find no emergency button to press. There was a backlit SOS panel but nothing happened when I pressed it. And, when no one responded to my banging on the door and my increasingly loud shouts of Hola!, I became a little concerned about how long I’d be stuck there. And how long the choc-ices would last. So I ate one and took out my mobile phone to call the owner of the Rover garage next door to ask him to alert the staff to my predicament. But there was no signal, of course. However, there was enough light from the phone to scour the lift control panel in search of an emergency button. Which I finally found in the bottom left corner, right at the opposite end from the notice saying you should press it when the lift stopped. A notice you obviously can’t read when there’s an electricity cut and there’s no light. Anyway, a worried voice eventually came on the intercom and told me not to worry. After another 10 to 15 minutes of defiant worrying, I called again and someone came and managed to release the inner doors, leaving only the outer doors locked and me still inside. Ten minutes later, these were finally opened and I was able to hand down my eco-friendly shopping bags and jump down the 3 feet to the floor. About the only coherent thing the young staff could say was “Sorry” and “This has never happened to us before”. Nor to me but I fancy I got the raw end of the deal. And I might be humping my bags down the stairs in future.

Strangely enough, I kept thinking of what Tony Hancock would have done. Apart from getting some laughs from it.


Ferrolano said...

Colin, your episode in the supermarket lift is interesting. My understanding of the Spanish regulation regarding lifts and their installation is that there must be communication (telephone) to the service provider for that lift. In Spain because of the “cartel” arrangement, this in fact becomes the service network of the manufacturer in question. I am required to have this feature on a privately installed lift.

By the way, the main advantage of a hydraulically powered lift over an all electric one is that in case of main power failure, the lift cabin can either automatically or manually be sent to the next floor down, where the doors will then open. Believe me, it does work.

Midnight Golfer said...

I can't decide if the word is insulted or offended or what, but I was certainly displeased when I was told that I would have to get a Spanish driver's license, and on top of it, I would have to go through the entire drivers' ed. and testing process and expense to get it. Not to mention that the person who told me this, a couple of years ago, had just pulled me over, and issued me a ticket, for using what in the States is considered a hands-free device, but over here is just a bluetooth headset, and illegal to wear while driving. Not to mention that I also had to pay in cash, out of pocket, a large sum of euros, (which luckily I was carrying at the moment.)

So what have I learned, that I didn't already know, by shelling out nearly a grand, throughout the entire process of legally getting a Spanish driver's license?
-Don't turn right on red.
-Never stay in the fast lane.
-You're just supposed to KNOW the speed limit, based on where you are driving, whether or not it's posted.
-Round-a-bouts are insane, and best avoided, and always yield to the cars already in the roundabout (duh)
-Simply just driving makes you feel like a rebel, when the system seems intent on making you take the bus or moped.

everything else I've forgotten.

(Okay, seriously, and I think I've said it before, I think it actually is worth the time and effort to go through the process of getting a license. But, what still bothers me is the cost, and the arbitrary rules they use to decide which countries do and don't get to have their licenses recognized as valid.)

mike the trike said...

My wife and I got stuck in our building lift for 20 minutes. The phone didn't work even though once before I was trapped in the same lift the phone worked and I was able to summon a man to free me. In this particular instance an alarm bell started ringing and one of the residents came to the lift to see if we were OK. He phoned for the lift service who came and freed us. I guess when the phone fails there is a backup alarm bell. The first time I got stuck I pushed the button to summon the operator and she asked me what number I wanted. She was an operator with Telefonica. I said I didn't know the number and she said there has to be a number in the lift. Looking around I finally saw it up near the lift ceiling. What a great place to put an emergency number. Later I made a copy and pasted it next to the emergency phone button.

Colin said...


I will check next time but my recollection is that there was simply a phone number. Useless when there's no signal. As I said, pressing the alarm button sounded a signal up in the store and someone eventually came on the intercom, though without inspiring any confidence in me.

Colin said...


The price if not being an EU& citizen, I guess.

"Round-a-bouts are insane, and best avoided". How very true!

Colin said...


Sorry to hear of your ordeal(s). I guess it all adds to the rich pageant of life here in Spain. I'm reassuring myself with the thought that one doesn't read too many stories of people starving to death in lifts. Or plummeting to their death below . . .

mike the trike said...

I remember a lift in the City of London which was hydraulic and it was powered by water. It is a different ride to one using a cable and motor. A lot of lifts had an attendant who usually had a uniform and wore white gloves. Perhaps you remember the lifts that had a gate that had to be closed and sometimes someone would take the lift the top floor and not close the gate properly so one had to walk up. Another very old lift in the city had a rope which passed through the lift and a man would pull on the rope to get it started and then had to slow the lift down as it approached the needed floor by grasping the rope as it slipped through his hands and tightening his grip till it stopped. He wore very thick leather gloves to stop his hands from burning. The lift only took four persons including the operator. It was based on the same principle as a dumb waiter.

Midnight Golfer said...

What bugged me the most about the whole ordeal was the first trip to the DGT to try and simply get them to issue me a license based on my U.S. license, and the number of individuals who were there and who successfully got their licenses, without having to take a single exam or driver's course, and who were from other countries in the Americas, and outside the EU.

Granted, I got my first U.S. license at 16, after a short course in public high school, of free driver's ed. The exam cost me six bucks, and the in-the-car part of the exam was done in a closed course, the same day as the written exam, and was done in a car with an automatic transmission.
If it weren't for my mom and dad insisting I learn to drive stick, I don't think I would have ever bothered.
Maybe there's a reason they don't recognize U.S. drivers licenses?

mike the trike said...

From what I understand the US Embassy states that US citizens visiting Spain who want to drive in Spain must obtain an international driving permit (IDP) prior to their arrival in Spain. An international driving permit translates your state issued driver’s license into 10 languages (including Spanish) so you can show it to officials in foreign countries to help them interpret your driver’s license. The IDP is not valid by itself and must be carried with your valid State driver’s license. But if you are resident I believe there is no agreement at present between the USA and Spain about recognizing a US licence so you have to take the exam.

Midnight Golfer said...

When I got pulled over the first time, I handed the Guardia Civil my Georgia State license, accompanied by its IDP, which I had gotten prior to coming to Spain.

He didn't even ask if I was just visiting, or for how long, or whether or not I was a resident yet, but just simply that I had better get my Spanish license.

I still wonder what would have happened if I hadn't had enough cash on me to pay the amount he wrote on the ticket. Would he really have left me on the shoulder of the highway while he had my wife's car towed?

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