Winged By Driving

 

I lost part of a wing mirror the other day. The peril of narrow London streets and other careless drivers. I didn’t even realise it had been damaged until the next day. How stupid? And then my attempt to protect the electrics from the exigencies of our variable April weather (see above) caused some hilarity at the garage. ‘Well done. Only just a tad pointless given wing mirrors are designed to fill with water and drain. You need to make a weep hole in the plastic’ which rather defeated my attempts to create a  temporary fix. It just showed me – again – that I make assumptions and invariably they are wrong.

Another lesson relearnt from the humble wing mirror.

Much like when I hired a car in the Algarve circa 1993.

We had a day out in a local town along the coast. Day two and I’d really not got comfortable with the left hand drive thing. I continued to open the door when changing gear for instance.

And so it came to pass that we turned down a narrow street and I sort of forgot the bulk of the car was on my right rather than as is customary in the UK, on my left.

Bang!

If you’ve whacked a wing mirror you’ll know what ‘Bang!’ is like. It sort of combines the explosiveness of the mortar shell with the surprise of the cold shower.

I did the decent thing. I stopped. A furious faced man appeared from a  nearby cafe gesticulating in Portuguese. He may have been speaking Portuguese but initially at least I think he was incoherent in several languages. 

I tried to pacify him, accepting my responsibility, trying to be especially British – all a bit mad dogs, Englishmen and too much sun, that sort of thing.

He appeared to have no English and my Portuguese hadn’t reached menu levels at that point So I dug into my wallet and proffered some notes. Liras I suppose back then. As more were pealed off the bundle, so did his temper decrease and his ability at English increase. Finally he nodded and about turned and headed for the cafe. 

I sighed at having avoided some sort of international incident and fracas and drove away very slowly.

The next day, with the car not totally fit – lacking a wing mirror; mine had gone too – I went to the car hire outlet in Carvoeiro where we were staying. ‘I had a bit of an accident, I’m afraid,’ I began.

The man assured me that was no problem. We inspected the damage. They’d swap the car. ‘Did you talk to the other driver? Was it his fault?’

 I admitted (a) it was mine (b) he’d come out of the cafe and berated me and (c) I had paid him off.

Had he threatened me?

Not per se. He was upset but at no stage physically threatening other than possibly to himself in that he looked capable of heart failure.

Did you take his details? Number plate? How did you know he was the driver/owner?

As the questions piled up, I realised my mistake. It was rather forcibly pointed out to me when the man asked me what I would have done in the UK had a similar incident occurred. 

‘Mr Le Pard. We may be a foreign country to you but we are both part of the EU and have the rule of law (okay so I was tempted to point out that the Salazar and Caetano dictatorship wasn’t that long ago, but that would have been churlish of me). Why did you think it right to behave as if this was some sort of third world nation?’

Arrogance; an instinctive Britishness that meant I still thought ‘all foreigners began at Calais’ even as I espoused a more international viewpoint; fear of the unknown. That was the day I told myself to ask ‘what would I do at home?’ if in doubt as to the way to behave in unfamiliar situations. It doesn’t mean that is the way to behave but it does at least set a standard, create a template for how I react to other people and from which I can try and resolve whatever the issues are.

It is very easy to feel out of place and foolish. And usually it is because I make assumptions. Or I don’t ask questions? Or both. 

One day, maybe, I’ll learn

 

still, we did enjoy the holiday..

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at geofflepard.com about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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26 Responses to Winged By Driving

  1. Mary Smith says:

    “One should never assume” – as an elderly aunt was fond of pointing out. 🙂

    Like

  2. willowdot21 says:

    We had a similar incident. We had our last full family holiday the two older lads in their mid twenties and our youngest fifteen. Said holiday was in Greece and we hired a car. Second day of the holidays hubby reversed car from were he had parked it the night before. Only to find himself stuck on a standing pipe ( which stood proud of the ground and was obviously redundant) In getting the car free part of the rear bumper broke off. We spent a hot stressful day with hubby buying glue, string and such to fix it. By they evening we were all fed up and irritable! We convinced hubby to go to the car hire we had used. We told the guy the sad sorry tale. He laughed and said ” Narda go and enjoy yourselves no charge” he told us. Amazingly there was no charge.💜 I feel your pain . Then three years ago I hit someone’s wing mirror and broke it. I knocked on the door and confessed only to be berated by the owners sister in law. Long story short I got the owner a pleasant enough chap to get the wing mirror fixed and I pay if I got the bill. Hubby came with me when I went to pay. As I hand over the money the old chap said knowingly to hubby I suppose you have had to fork out for the little lady’s accident… Bloody cheek!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Not while you are still in charge of Dick Head Tours

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Violet Lentz says:

    I would have done the same. both the wrapping of the wing mirror and the paying off of the native.. So maybe you were just acting like a girl? hehehe

    Liked by 1 person

  5. We had aholiday in France. The owner of the hotel seemed to be very off with us and didn’t seem to speak any English, so we tried to communicate in French but clearly he could not understand us. Then as we checked out the owner spoke to us in perfect English. Bizarre really.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. trifflepudling says:

    I think that it just indicates that you didn’t want to get involved in any tortuous overseas paperwork wrangle!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Never make assumptions – I think there ought to be a course we could take to gain that skill!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Elizabeth says:

    I nicked a mailbox on a narrow road both breaking my mirror and knocking the box off its post. I found the home it belonged to and told the young man what I had done. He said it happened all the time and that I was the first person to ever come and admit it. He just laughed and said not to worry.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. Norah says:

    Oh dear, Geoff. That driving on the wrong side of the road can be problematic. I seem to recall my son having trouble with a wing mirror when we were in France – a similar incident. But I love that you always show us the humour. I especially love that you’d open the door when intending to change gears – how hilarious!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Widdershins says:

    A good lesson about, ‘the other.’ 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pam Lazos says:

    Hahahaha – and he was laughing all the way back into the cafe while the real driver of the car wouldn’t notice the damage for hours! Excellent story. :0)

    Liked by 1 person

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