So April is ITV time. No I’m not talking about the British television stations, I’m talking vehicles. Specifically my vehicle, which was due for its annual roadworthy test, which in Spain is called an ITV or Inspección Técnica de Vehículos if you really want to know. So begins the annual pilgrimage.
The procedure is that first you go online (or telephone if your Spanish is good enough, which mine isn’t) and obtain a cita, that’s an appointment. Then you take your vehicle along to their test station at the appropriate time where it undergoes the rigors of inspection of all the important components like brakes, lights, steering, tyres, wipers and the general condition of said vehicle. Inside the seatbelts are checked to make sure they all function, together with door handles and windows. Easy peasy!
Anyway as the third month of the year marched on (pun intended) I realised that I had better get my arse into gear, never mind my car, and organise a pre-ITV service of my Renault Kangoo with my very accommodating do-it-at-your-home mechanic, Dave. Alas, Dave had become quite involved with motor bike repairs within his business and was extremely busy. It was the end of the month before he could get to me.
A new ITV station had recently opened up in Fuengirola, our nearest coastal town, and I knew exactly where it was, which was closer than the ones I’d been to in the past at San Pedro and last year in Malaga. So I had waited to ask Dave how ‘accommodating’ he’d found the new place. Having established they were OK I set-to booking a cita there on the internet before my current ITV expired. Oh dear.
Searching through my car papers I found it was due by the 8th April and we were already at the 2nd.
The ITV website is quite jacked up. It simply asks for your vehicle registration number, and for further validation, the date it was first registered, then knows everything about you, right down to your shoe size. It could clearly see that I needed to be given the first available appointment – which was on Friday 28th April. OUCH!
I printed off the cita slip and put it in the car with its other papers in the hope that should I get stopped by the police, I could avoid a hefty fine by showing them I was actually getting it done, if a little late.
At least it would give me time to organise the fitment of new seals on my cv joints, which Dave advised me were needed but which he didn’t have time to do himself due to his overload of bike repairs. He recommended a friend who’s garage just happened to be three doors away from the little bar which we go to when walking the dogs. The garage owner’s name is Cristobal”, Dave told me.
A lady mechanic? I thought. Novel.
Of course Cristobal turned out to be a very nice Spanish gentleman who even spoke pretty good English and we got on great, especially when I opened the back door of my car and our dogs JD and Marti jumped out (they were to keep me company on the walk home), as Cristobal turned out to be a big a dog lover.
When I had first spoken to him I had asked him where he would recommend me to go to for new tyres and he replied that he could sort that for me too if I told him what I wanted. I described the amount and type of driving I did on average and said I’d go on his recommendation so long as they weren’t re-treads. He was quite appalled by that notion so I felt safe in leaving it up to him. He gave me a rough idea of prices, together with a quote for the CV seals, and the car was all sorted three days later.
But let’s get back to the ITV appointment. That got worse. This cita was in Malaga, a place where I always get lost. When I’d made the appointment I could not find anywhere on their website the option of going to the new place in Fuengirola.
Actually the previous year when I went to this Malaga ITV station for the first time I found it relatively easily, within a 25 minute drive. Unfortunately I got hopelessly lost when I came out of the place and it took me almost an hour to get home!
So I made sure I printed off maps from Google to get me there, and bring me back.
And before you ask the obvious, NO, I don’t have satnav. Whenever I’ve used it on my own I’ve always taken a wrong turn and finished up in someone’s driveway. Anyway that was out of the question now as my (not so smart) phone was out of action after it went for a dip in the swimming pool the day before. But that’s another story.
Anyway if the Malaga location wasn’t bad enough, what really made it such a shit appointment was that it was for 06:50, in the morning! What the …? It would mean leaving home at 06:00 to allow time for getting lost. I’d have to get up almost before I’d gone to bed the night before! (I stay up late.)
We had been having some lovely sunny weather in our area for the past few weeks, but were promised rain for three days, starting on Thursday. In the event it stayed beautiful on Thursday, until twilight when the dark clouds started rolling in. Within hours the rain was hurtling down.
I don’t think it stopped all night (what was left of mine) and when my alarm jolted me out of my slumbers it was lashing down outside.
To get off to a good start, I enjoyed my early morning tea out of my “Queen of ******* Everything” mug my daughter bought for me. Then I gathered up my paperwork, iPad and my laptop (I figured I would be so early getting to the ITV station I might have time to write a chapter or two of my next book while sitting in the car waiting for them to open) before heading out. Ziggy kindly handed me our large umbrella and small coolbox containing a couple of beers (0.00% alcohol) and opened the gates for me as I reversed out into the dark and murky morning.
It was 06:05 when I set off up our lane. I can’t say that I was surprised at the lack of traffic in Alhaurin at that time of day, but I was surprised at how bloody dark it was. I’d not been up and about so early since the clocks went forward so had been expecting to see a semblance of dawn when I drove off. Nothing! Nothing but darkness and a few street lights. It was only as I was about to filter onto the fast road to Malaga that I decided I should first double check my map for the exit I needed to take off.
Exit 63. No problem, I could picture it from my last visit. The only difference was that my last visit had been in broad daylight. Now I could barely see further than 10 meters in front of my car because of darkness, rain and mist thrown up by other traffic, which by now was slightly more in evidence.
I soon found that trying to overtake slower moving traffic wasn’t such a good idea because of all the spray. Also, the rain was obscuring the faded white lines on the centre and side of the road so I figured I’d rather stick behind something whose lights I could follow. I eventually settled myself several car lengths behind a cement truck (didn’t want any cement hurtling out onto my bonnet).
But not only was this bloody weather obscuring white lines, it also had quite an impact on the visibility of road signs. When I eventually took an exit which I thought must surely be mine, I was horrified to find that it was the one after the one I should have taken. I had no bloody idea where I was now.
At the earliest opportunity I pulled over to study the map. Joke. Even with interior lights and my reading glasses on I couldn’t make out an alternative route in the feint printout. As I began to create a build-up of traffic behind me I moved off in the general direction I thought I should be in until I could stop at a safer spot.
That didn’t make much difference. I followed some easy-to-see road signs for a parque industrial (industrial park – see Spanish is easy) because I knew the ITV centre was on one. Alas there is more than one parque industrial this side of Malaga. After a couple of dead ends I spotted an illuminated guardhouse of a large establishment and decided to try for help there.
Parking up outside the gate I ran through the deluge to the door of the guardhouse which was thankfully opened for me by a very confused looking, uniformed Spanish gentleman.
“Hola Senor, ayuda por favour!” which was my best Spanish for “Help, please!”, as I thrust my map in his direction, pointing to the location of the ITV place.
He muttered, ‘Mama mia’ and other words to that effect, which didn’t bode well.
Then after standing with one of those puzzled looks on his face like you see in cartoons (with a ? over the head) he found a scrap of paper and started to draw a map. When he’d done he indicated through the guardhouse window which road represented the starting point on his map then gave verbal directions as he guided me through his squiggles. I thought I understood.
I bade him many graciases and left him to deal with a truck which was waiting patiently to enter his yard. Then I set off, hopefully on my final leg.
Well, the this leg also took a few donkey detours until I finished up back at the guardhouse, where I started again from scratch, this time avoiding the wrong turns I’d taken the before. Eventually I found myself in familiar territory. Then I spotted the street on which I knew the ITV to be and only took two more wrong turns before I conquered the one-way system which led to it.
YES! I was here! And only about 20 minutes late.
I was quite surprised by the car park. It was packed. For goodness sakes, it wasn’t yet half past seven in the morning. I figured most of the cars must belong to employees.
I gathered all my necessary papers, including the road maps with which I hoped to explain to the ITV people that I’d got lost, then grabbed the umbrella. It’s a big one. So I opened the door and poked my brolly in the air before pressing the button to spring it open. Vwoof. Then I looked down to step out of the car, where there seemed to be rather a lot of water. Testing it with the toe of my shoe, it must have been over an inch deep and I was only wearing a pair of trainers/takkies/sneakers or whatever you like to call them, with fabric uppers. I closed the umbrella and brought it dripping across me to the passenger side. I’d noticed the guy in the car next to me was leaving and thought maybe the puddle might not be so deep on his side. I moved the Kangoo.
Repeat the performance, umbrella re-opened I swung my legs out and stepped down – into water which went clear over my shoes! Fan-bloody-tastic! I quickly locked the car and hopped & skipped forward to try and get out of the water before it penetrated. Yeah, right! As I dashed between three rows of cars I soon found that the ‘puddle’ was spread over half the car park.
I lowered my umbrella as I sloshed in through the automatic doorway and walked up to the cita registration machine. I looked at the registration numbers displayed on this pedestal for mine but it was devoid of anything familiar. I scrolled forward, nothing. I tried to scroll backwards to see how far back I’d been listed but it wouldn’t let me.
Then I squelched the length of the waiting room to the counter at the front, occupied by a woman and a man. I asked the Senora if she spoke English.
“No”. (No is the same in Spanish you know, but sounds slightly different.)
So I once more tested my linguistic skills by explaining that I had a cita for 6:50 and then waved a finger over my map indicating that I’d got lost. As her blank face gave off an air of disinterest the Senor to her left said,
“Yes,” I chirped, giving him my best smile. He intimated that I should hand him my papers which he looked at, kept two and said I should take a seat and wait. I asked him how long. I might as well have asked “how long’s a piece of string?” because he shrugged and said “one minute, five minutes, twenty minutes?” (who knows).
“Would it be better if I went home and made another cita online?” I asked.
“No, just wait there,” he said, indicating a nearby plastic chair.
As I turned to the chair only then did I take in the hoards already seated, waiting. There must have been over thirty people. I had been told by Dave that if I wanted to try and get the ITV earlier than the date I’d been given I could take a chance and just pitch up at the centre in Fuengirola, and hope to fit in on a cancellation.
“First thing in the morning, or at lunch time is good,” he said.
I figured this rent-a-crowd must have been a bunch of early morning chancers and hoped I wasn’t going to have to wait behind that lot! I was just lamenting the fact that I’d stupidly left my iPad the car so didn’t have any comforting distractions when the Senor called my name again.
At the counter he passed back my vehicle registration paper, asked me for €47.36c then handed me more papers and told me to go and wait in my car and watch for my number being displayed on the big exterior screen.
YES! I was IN! I couldn’t believe my luck. What a nice man. I wanted to kiss him, but thought better of it (anyway he wasn’t that good looking!).
Back outside I cheerfully splashed my way through the ankle-high water before climbing into my car and turning on the windscreen demister and my wipers so I could see the illuminated display on the ITV building’s wall more easily. I prepared for a wait.
I’d hardly had chance to put a new disc into the cd player when my registration was flashing red before my eyes. I made my way to Lane 6 in the huge warehouse before they had time to change their minds.
It was a doddle. The ‘man who does’ was happy to speak his not-so-bad English and we easily went through all the procedures necessary for him to test my systems. (!!! I’m still talking car here!) At the end of all the little tests he handed me my up-to-date car sticker which should keep me out of trouble for the next 12 months, pointing out that I needed to replace one of the light bulbs over the rear number plate. I thanked him for his help and off I went.
I only took two, easily rectifiable, wrong turns on the way back to the motorway and was home safe and sound, if still very wet, by 8:35, my pilgrimage complete.
As I recounted my experience to Ziggy he looked very sceptical when I told him how much water I’d sloshed through and how sopping wet my feet were – until I took my socks off and squoze out the equivalent of half a tumbler of water from each one.
He should know better by now than to question me! Am I not the Queen of ******* Everything”?
Over a year has passed since that event so when I went to renew my ITV this year I took no chances. I got my son to assist me in getting directions to the place using Google Maps satnav on my phone.
I allowed plenty of time and arrived at the ITV Test Station with twenty minutes to spare, the only trouble was it was a different test station. Still in Malaga it was the ‘old’ station not the ‘new’ one. The kind man at the desk there gave me instructions on how to get to the other one. “Turn left here,” he said, pointing to the window.
‘Here’ clearly wasn’t where I started from (after I’d gone round several corners after exiting the station at the rear), so surprise! surprise! I got lost.
Being a Saturday morning there weren’t many places open on the industrial estate to whom I could go to for help.
“Ah” I hear you say “why didn’t you tell your phone to take you to the ‘new’ one?” I did and it told me it couldn’t find the place either. See, it’s not just me!
After obtaining the assistance of a man on a bike walking (riding?) a dog, gave me directions to the new place (in Spanish) which, as I drove around in circles, I clearly hadn’t adequately understood. Finding myself close to the airport I then sought help from a taxi driver who was a little more intelligible.
I eventually found it.
By which time it was closed!