I don't pay too much attention to car models and features, but I was really impressed last Sunday evening when our friends lifted the hatchback on whatever car they have, which they had backed into the diagonal parking space adjacent to the seaside promenade in the town of Santa Pola. The back seat of their car had been removed or folded down to form a long expanse level with the floor of the trunk, and on this "table" were a single lit candle, a vase holding a fresh red rosebud, a bottle of cava and four glasses, and an assortment of tidbits that I learned later were roast duck breast on homemade croutons. It was the pre-dinner anniversary surprise that our 45-years-married friends had planned not just for themselves, but for us.
The bottle of cava was uncorked in a jiffy; music suddenly sounded--from the car CD-player, probably--and the anniversary couple obliged us with a dance on the promenade in front of the Mediterranean. Spanish passers-by stopped to watch the festivities, and upon being told the story, wished them enhorrabuena. It was a touching and very festive little celebration. This was the ultimate of tailgating, I declared, and I tried to explain to this not-American couple the U.S. custom of tailgating for sports events. I failed, and I know I will never again think of tailgate parties without remembering this one.
It has been a week of thinking about cars. Ours stopped, or rather, failed to start, right out in front of our house early in the week. The starter turned and choked, but it just couldn't start. Well, it could have happened in a worse place; we just went back inside, waited for 15 minutes, came back out, and our Ford Fusion started fine. No more problems for a couple days, but then one morning we stopped to drop off papers, bottles, and containers at the recycling bins on the other side of our urbanization, and by the time we had emptied the bags and climbed back into the car, it refused once more to start. Well, at least we were home in our own development, so this time we pushed the car to the curb, locked it, and walked the four short blocks home.
We had been meaning to get it to service anyway--we knew we needed new refrigerant for the air conditioning--so it suddenly seemed as though making the appointment sooner rather than later would be a good idea. When we went up to the bins after an hour's rest, and once again it started up easily, we drove straight to the repair garage, not wanting to strain our luck for a third time. Alas, no loaner car was available for another week, the following Thursday, and we are, here in Spain, a one-car family. Well, maybe our luck would hold out, we thought. But we have a couple important appointments this week that depend on our getting somewhere at a certain time.
Friday morning we both woke up with the same thought. First we drove to our planned coffee date with the small American group we know here, and then we drove in to Torrevieja to the rental agency where we had been such good customers before buying this car four years ago. I stayed in our car with the motor running while Johannes went in to sign the papers for a rental. What a disappointment, though--there were no rentals available! Fortunately we did not drive very far toward home before we found another rental agency. This one had a car to rent. Again, I stayed in our car with the motor running while Johannes went in to do the paper work. Forty-five minutes later (!) we were on our way again, this time straight to the garage, which was happy to get this job ahead of schedule and has tentatively estimated that we should get ours back on Tuesday.
That will be nice, and in addition to diagnosing and fixing the starter situation, they are going to fix the a/c and mount four new tires. We are reminded, especially as we see news of the driving and parking problems in the snow-covered northeast U.S., how little time we spend worrying about our car here--and how little money is spent on maintenance and repairs (not true, though, of the initial cost and gasoline). We never have to think about antifreeze or the effects of salt on the roadways, and even the occasional dusting of Sahara sand that floats over with the rain can be washed off at the one-euro car wash down the street.
For now, though, we don't have to think about washing a rental car, and while we wait for the six-year-old Ford to look and act like new again, we can enjoy the experience of trying out a make that is brand new for me. I would have been happy if we could have rented a smart car, as none of the appointments we have this week involve trips to the airport of carrying friends around, but we didn't have that choice. What was available on no notice was a Tata Vista. That is serving us well, and contrary to what I expected from what I had heard was a "basic" Indian car, this one is at least as large inside as our Ford Fusion. But I am not planning any tailgating party.