It had to happen sooner or later: I am now officially number 4 in the Church household. I held on to the number 3 spot for as long as I could, but it was only going to be a matter of time before my son followed his sister's example by passing his driving test. Bad news all round, except for my son and the Basque economy, of course.
The reality was driven home to us the other Saturday when my wife and I were debating whether to cruise to the coast or head for the city. We opted for the latter only to discover that our daughter had borrowed my wife's car and – yes, you guessed it – my son had grabbed mine. Prisoners in our own home, we spent the rest of the day clearing out the garage and smiling at our neighbours who in turn smiled back at us in evident bemusement-cum-sympathy.
But the story doesn’t end there, does it? As any long-suffering parent will testify, once your teenage darlings have got their licence to spill, getting into your own car will never feel the same again; assuming you ever find it, that is.
To mark this milestone, I decided to compile a My Kids Kidnapped My Car! Checklist. I wonder how my list compares with yours?
1. Er, where is it?!
As I have just mentioned, this is our first challenge, and no joke on a freezing, wet, miserable Monday morning. A good place to begin your search is on the other side of the road behind that tree on the embankment. But mind that puddle!
2. Oh, that’s odd...
You’ve found your car, you’ve opened the door, but the inside light no longer appears to be working. Somebody’s been messing about with the buttons. I wonder why?
3. Hang on a minute...
As your knees hit your chin and your nose is flattened against the windscreen, you struggle to adjust your seat to a more driver-friendly position.
4. Now, what was that doing there?!
As you shove your seat back with all your might, you hear a crunching sound as you mangle the remains of your poor umbrella for the umpteenth time this month. It’s anybody’s guess why they couldn’t have left it behind the navigator’s seat, where you’d carefully placed it the day before.
For a split second you fear you may have just gone blind but, before you panic, try adjusting the rear-view mirror, which, for reasons best known to itself, offers excellent views of the navigator’s legs, but little in the way of actual road visibility.
6. It’s stuck!
You used to be able to release the handbrake with just one hand. When did I become a weakling? you wonder as you pull frantically with both hands until the brake clicks... and your back cracks under the strain.
What happened to my Barbra Streisand compilation? you ask yourself, as your ears are subjected to the deafening din of Nasty Noise’s Greatest Hits Volume 111. After all, the only reason you bought the sodding car in the first place was so that you could listen to your own music without anybody telling you what crap musical taste you’ve got.
8. But I filled up only yesterday!
The petrol gauge is already back down in the red zone. You really can’t understand how a daily trip to your place of work a couple of miles down the road can have such a devastating effect on your fuel tank. You suspect, however, that somebody might be taking you for a ride.
9. What’s the matter with him?
If you ever make it onto the road, the first thing you’ll notice is that everybody, present company excepted, appears to have overdosed on amphetamines. Grannies overtake you at 200 miles per hour while businessmen cut you up at roundabouts. What’s the rush, for heaven’s sake?!
10. Oh, now I get it!
Blinded by full-beam headlights from the car attached to your bumper, you’ve had enough and decide to pull over for a breather. You ignore the angry honking of the passing driver, check your mirror before pulling back out into the urban jungle, and that’s when it dawns on you: your son forgot to remove – or deliberately left? – his learner plate on the back windscreen; an invitation for trouble if ever there were one.
–¿Por qué no pruebas con las otras marchas, cariño?
–Why don’t you try the other gears, darling?
–Are you in a hurry?
–Para nada. Conduces muy bien. ¡Cuidado con ese poste!
–Do you want to drive?
–Not at all. You drive very well. Mind that bollard!
–Hace un calor infernal. ¿Abrimos la ventanilla?
–Bien. Podríamos quitar la calefacción también.
–It’s baking hot. Shall we open the window?
–OK. We could turn the heating off too.
Spanglish for Impatient People, Lesson 17, “On the road”
After 15 minutes or so on the run, Colin’s legs had already begun to tire. So when he saw an old milk float preparing to overtake him, he didn’t think twice about thumbing a lift.
‘Beaconsfield, please.’ It was worth a try.
‘Another comedian, eh? Hop in, son.’
It was easier said than done, and in the end Colin decided to use both his feet; he had had enough exercise for one day.
dayrealing, Chapter 42, “The Passenger”
Some bastard had blocked him in again. Naturally, Mick only had himself to blame. When was he going to learn that you should never park in an empty parking space? After all, this was Spain, where double parking was a national pastime; triple parking, however, was positively frowned upon – if only because the buses couldn’t get through.
Strictly speaking, he had blocked two of them in – it was always a he – in such a way that it was impossible for either one of them to back out.
Mick knew the routine well by now:
1) Sound your horn “politely”
2) Check to see if the driver has left his keys in the ignition
3) Curse everything and everybody
4) Sound your horn again, this time “rudely”
5) Note the car model
6) Locate the nearest bar
Typically, the offender would smile at you – though never actually apologise –, amble out of the bar, get into his car and drive off.
So much for theory. In retrospect, the owner of the shiny black Mercedes Coupé could consider himself frightfully unlucky to have caught Mick on a bad day.
fifty shades of Spain, 20, "Don’t Look Back In Anger"