Normal people seek out a car park. Normal people open their wallets, feed the machine, press the button and take a ticket. In our neck of the woods though, that’s not the way to go about things as everyone simply refuses having to pay to park, especially if they think they are only going to be 10 minutes. The local council doesn’t want to build any more car parks, it’s a wasted investment. See, build a free car park and you’ll never get your investment back, build a pay one and you’ll never get your investment back, don’t build one and you get to keep what you would have invested. Instead, the council used this ‘investment’ to promote itself and attract more tax paying businesses by offering them a money saving deal. Build your offices here and we’ll possibly, though probably not, enforce the health and safety regulations regarding how many toilets per person you need to provide, but we’ll certainly not enforce any regulations regarding how many car parking spaces you need to have. So build an office for 500 people, create maybe just 50 parking spots and let your remaining employees fend for themselves along with those who work in the other 100 office blocks that took advantage of the local council’s ill considered offering.
Throw in a few schools within this same built up commercial area, all pretty big ones with 400 to 500 pupils for each one. Site them on single lane roads, a few on a one way road and in the middle put two car parks, both free. Now, around here, a free car park is more attractive than a Supermodel on a nude beach and therefore more crowded than said beach. Let’s do the maths. Six schools, 500 pupils each, say 2 children per car, what’s that..? Around 1,500 cars dropping the kids off. Then add in the workforce, that’s another 2,000 cars give or take. A conservative guesstimate therefore gives us 3,500 cars, in a rush, all aiming for pretty much the same point at pretty much the same time. Add in that each of them is more important than anyone else so ‘giving way’ or leaving space for anyone is the job of the car behind, not them.
Two lane roads, some roundabouts, pedestrian crossings and a couple of residential rat runs. That pretty much lays out the landscape for you. Now add in a whole pile of drivers with the observation skills of a cricket bat, the temper of a rudely woken hibernating bear, no regard for traffic signs or speed limits and no idea what an indicator is for. Hold that image for a bit… Just as you’re convinced a Spanish driver can no longer completely shock you with their insane lack of driving ability, they show just how inept they really can be by, having arrived at their destination, parking.
In France they call it the ‘French kiss’. This describes the little touches their bumpers make to the cars parked in front and behind as they parallel park. In Spain it’s more like a ‘fist’. Along the same lines as the French only the space doesn’t have to be big enough for your car when you start the manoeuvre as it will be plenty big enough when you’ve finished. Rather than look over your shoulder to get a feel for distance, you wait until point of impact. Add in lack of clutch control with a heavy throttle foot and you can start to see why car repair businesses do well out here. I read a local magazine where the editor was recounting an afternoon sat in a Marbella café watching some chap park his car. He said the minor damage inflicted on the other car was just that, minor, so other Europeans should just relax a little and take the Spanish attitude towards parking, less stress. He may have a point. But I’d guess he doesn’t have a very nice, nor very expensive car and hasn’t considered why Spanish insurance is stratospheric.
Remember the car parks..? two of them, both free, one with space for 200, the other with space for 100. Creative parking means a car park with 100 painted bays will fit 200 cars even allowing for those special people who take two bays by parking at a silly angle, so 400 cars are sorted. 3,100 to go. Street parking is all double or treble parked, no-parking zones are full, roundabouts are full and so are the pavements. Even the little park has been commandeered. What was once grass is now just mud and ruts, what were newly planted trees are now dead flattened sticks and what was once the pathway itself is now the entrance. A bit of a squash but everyone is in. At some point you’d have thought the Police would come along and do something, get people to show some consideration. They do turn up but what they do is just stand in the middle of the pedestrian crossing and stop traffic so those parked in the big car park can cross the road. Not issue tickets or have a bit of a chat to those parked badly or those blocking the exits, or blocking the pavements or double parked. No, they do the job of the ‘Lollypop Lady’. And even though the pedestrian crossing is traffic light controlled they just stand on the crossing furiously blowing their whistles, stopping cars with the flat of their hand when the light is red, waving everyone across when the little green man appears. Which I thought was the whole point of traffic lights anyway! And the whistle they endlessly blow has no effect on the drivers, they’re sat in their tin boxes listening to music, it’s me and my ears that suffer being stood right next to them. And they have no effect at all, the traffic still does not flow, how can it when PC Plod has just whistled at a bus to move forwards onto the roundabout where it now has to stop which then blocks those crossing from the other side.
Look around and not surprisingly, you’ll find the Police car parked illegally on the pavement itself. If the Police don’t give a rats about where they park, just as long as it is close enough so they don’t have far to walk, and can’t be bothered to start handing out a few fines, why should anyone else worry. Heaven forbid if the police started doing their job and did a bit of towing and ticketing, the locals would kick up a fuss about the parking, the local council would hear about this and maybe, just maybe, the businesses and schools would be forced to contribute to the problem they are mostly responsible for. And pigs might fly. To take the absurdity of things further, the main car park has recently been developed into a residential home. We lose 200 parking spots and the development attracts another 100 cars to the morning jolly.
Me, I have retired from this daily battle. Instead I drive my troop close to the school then we get out and walk. It’s only a 2km stroll, takes less than 10 minutes, wakes us up, gives me some exercise and parking is easy. Okay it’s a pain in the rain and the cold is cold but I kind of enjoy it now. I enjoy watching the frustrated drivers peering ahead trying to see what the delay is, which of course is the same thing that delayed them yesterday, the day before yesterday and every day before that. I smile at the irony of the boxed-in parents angrily blowing their horns in the hope it will attract the attention of the now empty cars boxing them in when only yesterday, they were the one’s doing the boxing-in. And here’s the funny thing, on a normal day, walking is usually faster.