Friday, December 2, 2011

Giving Thanks in Terrassa

Sometimes you don’t have to take a big trip or venture far from home to have an adventure.  This I managed to do last week when I went to visit Gracia in Terrassa.

I met Gracia about twelve years ago when she married Miquel and moved from Terrassa to California.  Since then, she’s become one of my best friends, even though we only lived in the same area for a short time.  A couple of years after we met I moved to Catalunya, but we’ve managed to stay in touch and try to see each other when she comes to Terrassa.

Both Miquel and Gracia are from Terrassa, a small city to the west of Barcelona and about an hour and a half driving time from here.  At first Gracia used to come regularly to visit her mom.  Since her mom died, she’s been coming less frequently.  I’ve been to Gracia’s house several times, but I was living in Barcelona then and always went by train.  This would be my first time driving there.

I printed out directions from Via Michelin.  I’ve compared their directions with those of Google Maps and find they do better in Europe than Google does.  ViaMichelin told me the trip would take 1 hour 37 minutes, would be 153 kilometers long, and would cost 39.81 euros in estimated gas and road tolls.  That was one way. 

The trip would have cost considerably less if we were living somewhere else in Spain, Madrid, for example, because Spain concentrates most of its toll roads in Catalunya.  Going by train would have been cheaper, but it would have taken about three hours each way, instead of 1-1/2 and wouldn’t have left much time for the visit.  Ultimately the trip didn’t cost me 80 euros, it cost much more.

There was no where to park near Gracia’s house so she jumped into the car with me to go in search of a parking space.  We went round in circles and finally found one only about three blocks away.

At the end of the day, after a long walk, lunch, a lot of sitting around and chatting, Gracia walked with me as I headed back to the car to start the drive home.  It was about 5 pm, but I wanted to do as much driving as I could before it became dark, plus there was a Barca soccer game on that night that I wanted to get home in time to see.   Coming up to the car Gracia started to run forwards and shout.  I had no idea what she was so upset about.

And then I saw it: my car hooked up to a tow truck!  Good grief!  It turned out that I had parked in a loading zone.  Well what do you know.  Do they actually give parking tickets and tow cars away?  Or was I the first one?

The loading zone extended further back where other cars had also parked, and the sign was somewhat hidden by a telephone pole, but not completely out of sight.  That explained why I hadn’t noticed.  Spanish driver’s license or no, I wouldn’t knowingly park in a loading zone.

So the trip cost me the gas, the tolls, and 73 euros for the tow truck.  I paid the truck, and asked about the parking fine.  The tow truck driver said the fine would, or possibly would not, be sent in the mail.  Since I lived out of town, he wasn’t sure if they would bother to send it.  But until then, I didn’t have to pay the fine.  He was only authorized to collect the tow truck charges.  If and when the fine comes it will be an additional 32 euros.

So it was a far more expensive trip than originally figured.  I had been parked in that spot since a little after 11 am.  I returned at about 5:20 pm.  If I had arrived just a couple of minutes later, the car would have been gone.  Just thinking about what I would have done (my first assumption would probably have been that the car had been stolen), makes me dizzy.  How long would it have taken to find the car and get it back?  There would have been the possible confusion of ownership because even after all these months and the filing of papers with a lawyer, the car is still not registered in my name but in the name of a man who died several years ago.  Would the police have released the car to me?  And then there would have been the additional cost.  Paying for the tow truck to come was 73 euros, but paying for actual towing would have been double that. 

This visit took place on the day before Thanksgiving.  We didn’t have turkey (we had risotto with cuttlefish).  Having just remembered that Thanksgiving was the next day, we had a special toast and said our thanks.  But in addition to what I said at the table, I am thankful that the whole debacle wasn’t worse. 

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