With Adam in Catalonia

With Adam in Catalonia

I’m visiting my sister who lives on a hillside in Catalonia.

No. She’s not called Adam. She’s Mary. Adam is the name of the car I hired from the airport in Barcelona.

You never know what you’re going to get when you hire a car. My hand hesitated over the ‘economy’ range but, since it’s only me and a small suitcase, I went for ‘small’. Some rental companies would describe this class of car as ‘compact’, suggesting something not really small, just incredibly, desirably neat. The website might show you a flashy Fiat 500 with go-faster stripes, a sunroof and shiny bumpers. You rarely drive away in anything like the one in the picture. The best outcome I ever had was a couple of years ago when Enterprise in Glasgow ran out of basic cars in working order and had to upgrade me to a virtually new VW Sirocco. I drove off as if inside a cinema advertisement. I could hear the stirring music, see the sunlight playing on the metalwork and the sumptuous view of a rocky corniche beside a shimmering sea as I coasted along the M77 to Kilmarnock letting the wind blow through my hair.

I made up the bit about the wind and the hair. It was raining. I kept the windows shut.

This morning, red-eyed from an early flight and flummoxed by the unexpected shuttle bus journey to another terminal to find the car hire firm, I waited patiently for my turn to hear the financially crippling implications of a bump or scrape bigger than a 50 pence piece (or €2 – inflation, exchange rate). Risks laid bare and forms completed, I tootled off to the rental car compound where a young woman ushered me unenthusiastically to my tiny Opel Adam parked in bay 10. Dumpy, white and not that old, Adam has seen a few careless drivers; pock-marked bumpers and grazed paintwork – like acne on a teenage face.

There’s always a catch in a hire car. Some mechanism you’ve never encountered before. A clever gismo to outwit you. Adam’s boot. Clicking the key once, twice, quickly, slowly. Searching for a hidden button inside and outside. Nothing would persuade it to open until, in frustration, I thumped it with my clenched fist and – whaddya know? It would be such a help if they would just explain things to you. Or include a manual. Why is there never a manual?

Adam looks very sweet but he’s completely superficial. If I move his seat so that my arms reach the steering wheel comfortably, my feet don’t reach the pedals. I haven’t noticed it before, but is it possible that my arms and legs are poorly proportioned? Surely not. Adam is just badly designed.

As is the compound. To leave you have to go through two automatic barriers. The first barrier was fine. At the second barrier, nothing happened. Reversed out. Tried again. Tried a different barrier. Nada! Back to the parking area to enquire. I’m told: ”the barrier lifts automatically”. It’s obvious they doubt my story or think I’m off my rocker. I try again. Same result. Back again, this time straight into the office where they tell me: “you have to press the button”. Not only do you have to press the button, you have to speak to a voice through the intercom to give the name of the hire firm. Automatic, huh?

Flight time: 1 hour 50 minutes

Car hire time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Finally, I’m off.  To the many splendours of the Spanish roads and the lovely wooded hillsides of Catalonia.

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