Thursday, June 28, 2007


Our little car here in Portugal is an Opel Corsa. It has four doors and is a stick shift. It doesn't feel as sturdy as the Ford Focus we had in Scotland (which was, truthfully, quite a fine car). It doesn't have quite the balls that the Focus had, and the shifter feels just a bit like a toy shifter to me. It's silver, so it blends into a crowd and, since I hadn't until this afternoon bothered to memorize even a little bit of the license plate (what I've learned since is the memorable letters BM, which appear somewhere in the middle of the plate), I tend to approach it surreptitiously, as if I'm about to get caught doing something I shouldn't.

The most notable thing about our Corsa, however, is that it whines. It whines when you turn it off and open the door, no matter how many times you turn the lights and the radio off. It whines, and then just to prove that it's not going to behave the way you expect, it puts its windows up and down (granted, when you're pushing the button. But nevertheless. With the engine off and the door open and the key out of the ignition, in gear or not, parking brake set or not.). It does not, however, lock when you push the button on the remote, asking it to lock. Once in awhile, for some reason, it decides to cooperate and, when you turn it off and remove the key and open the door, it doesn't whine. On those rare times when it doesn't whine, it also deigns to lock when you push the button on the remote (it does lock when you turn the key in the door, reluctantly, and with a great show of irritation.).

For some reason, it whines less with Ian than it does with me. Only once have I opened the driver's door to tractable silence, but almost every other time Ian drives it sits quietly for him and gamely locks all its doors when asked, even from several feet away.

In general, whining doesn't faze me (try it—you'll see). But my fear with the Corsa is that it's whining because I've left something on, or worse, something has been left on without my knowledge, and the battery will go dead while we sleep the sleep of the just. This is not a hugely big deal. One of the last things pointed out to me when I picked up the Corsa was the number to call for roadside (or, I'm assuming, driveway) assistance (an aside: roadside assistance has become the focus of some attention in Portugal recently, and it is now required by law to wear a fluorescent green vest whenever you're outside of your ailing car on the side of a road. There's one in the glove box of the Corsa.). The problem is, of course, that there's not a phone at the beach house, and we haven't been able to get a SIM card for Ian's phone that will work in Portugal. He has one from T-Mobile UK, which would work in a pinch, except that it's prepay and it's run out of money, and we can't “top-up” online without having a credit card registered in the UK. We can walk in to Porto Covo and use the payphone on the square, but it's pretty far in an emergency.

So far though, the whining seems to be just whining, and nothing that's going to require us to use roadside assistance or the fluorescent green vest. I think I forgot to include this when I wrote about Naples and Italy, but it's notable that, when we went to board the bus from Amalfi to Naples, there was some manner of grease monkey poking around the driver's seat with the driver hovering nearby. From what we could tell, it seemed to be a small matter of a warning light or a warning buzzer that was irritating the driver (to be fair, the driver did seem to be concerned that the warning was doing just that: warning. Hence, perhaps, the angry cellphone call just before we pulled over?). The grease monkey poked around for a couple minutes and evidently got the annoying warning to stop; the bus driver shrugged and yelled “Napoli!” out the door, we boarded, and an hour later we were standing by the side of the freeway with the bus on fire.

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