Grumblin’ Ole Geezer’s Volcano Lair: Part 7.2 – Introductory Bureaucracy 2

THE CAR

Due to import restrictions (and/or the transfer tax and an administration fee for second hand cars), used cars are rather expensive on Tenerife (but, on the other hand, due to the fact that the island tax is much lower than the VAT on the EU mainland, gas is very cheap comparatively). Furthermore, buying a car on Tenerife can involve loads of hassle with all the paperwork and relevant taxes. Finally, all potential debts are associated to the car, not the owner (parking fines, outstanding loans, even social security, taxes, etc.), and if you’re buying a used car from a private seller, you have to deal with the Ministry of Traffic and the related bureaucratic hurdles yourself (see this source for more information).

However, most used car dealerships will deal with all of this in your stead as well as usually offer some kind of warranty on used cars – but, naturally, the prices at used car dealerships are even steeper than those of private vendors. As we were already up to eyeballs in bureaucracy at the time – and because I’m extraordinarily far from being any kind of a car expert, let alone a car mechanic – we decided to stomach the additional cost and buy a car at a dealership. Of course, there were a few failed attempts – especially the one comes to mind where we decided for an advertised Ford Fusion that looked pretty good and was discounted to something almost approximating a normal price. Monika phoned the dealer and they claimed the car was still available. To our dismay we soon figured out that the advertised car had been sold ages ago because the company in question had not updated their website for who knows how long, but the employee Monika had spoken to earlier had failed to mention that (or notice it at all, I suppose). The employee was also rather disappointed when we actually came to the store and didn’t simply buy what was, in her words, “a similar 5000-EUR nine-year-old Citroen” instead of “the 3900-EUR ten-year-old Ford Fusion” that we had actually agreed upon.

By that time – after about a week of trying to find a decent car – I was so fed up with everything that we walked straight into a random nearby dealership, which turned out to be owned by a capable and pleasant (not pushy, for a change!) Argentinian, and simply bought a ten-year-old but well-preserved Seat Ibiza after a short test drive and superficial inspection (I elected not to pretend I knew anything much about cars, save for how to drive them, appreciate a good reliable engine, and enjoy seeing them in something as closely resembling good working order as possible). The dealer gave us a one-year warranty and took care of all the paperwork very painlessly and promptly (OK, he needed an additional day because he forgot about a special local holiday in the capital city of Santa Cruz, where the only Ministry of Traffic office on Tenerife is located, so his first trip to the Ministry was in vain – these local holidays or arbitrary fiestas, as one might call them, are a notable feature of the Canaries: every city, town, village and hamlet seems to have its own patron saint that needs to be celebrated on their own special day every year; nobody can even begin to remember all of these extraordinary holidays and associated parties; but you can most likely attend at least one of these merrymakings somewhere on the island each weekend if you’re so inclined). The car had some minor initial problems, all of them more or less trivial (like a fried breaker for the cigarette lighter outlet that I needed for GPS navigation and the dealer hadn’t thought of checking; a power window that broke almost immediately, probably due to dust in the wiring; and a broken lock on the gas tank), but to date the dealer has in fact fixed them all. He did attempt to pass off the broken gas tank lock with a “but who cares, I mean, nobody will steal gas on the Canaries” excuse, but fixed it nevertheless after we started rolling our eyes and laughing at his rather amusing attempt at avoiding the issue. For now the car has been running great and I’m counting on many cheap Seat parts being around in case I eventually need them – although I’m also, hopefully not too optimistically, counting on the proverbial reliability of the VW engine under Ibiza’s hood.

Getting reasonably-priced car insurance was a problem, though. Before we had sold our previous car, as we’d certainly not needed or wanted one in Berlin, my insurance record had been spotless, so I had benefitted from a full bonus. However, I hadn’t needed any car insurance for almost exactly three years. Monika’s sister, who happened to work at my former Slovenian insurance company, sent us a confirmation of this, but unfortunately the time limit on transferring the bonus to the largest local insurance company was at a maximum of one year. We made some phone calls and it turned out none of the other insurance companies would even consider transferring the bonus, at least not without a lengthy and complicated bureaucratic procedure. Not willing to give up on this just yet, Monika suddenly remembered we could ask our friend Jocular Banker (see Part 5 and Part 7.1) if the bank was willing to insure our car and possibly acknowledge the bonus. The first thing he said was something like “…but I have to tell you right away that our car insurance is far too expensive.“. After we shrugged and asked him to tell us about it anyway, he approved a full bonus without even looking at the paperwork Monika’s sister had provided (when Monika offered him the document, he just said: “Nah, don’t worry about it, I’ll just put eight years without any insurance claims here. Nobody ever checks this, anyway.“). He made some calculations, and it turned out that the bank was able to offer us a significantly better insurance package for much less than the major local insurance company, and they’d even space out the payments over one year without any interest. Great success – thanks to Jocular Banker.

INTERNET ACCESS

Our business (as well as quite our hobbies, particularly our music and my scribbling endeavours) largely depend on fast and reliable internet access. However, this turned out to be a bit of a problem (as we had expected, anyway). Even though we opted for Movistar, the largest Spanish telecommunications company, all we could get, for now, is a relatively lousy ADSL access, with speeds pretty abysmal in comparison with what we had been used to even in Berlin, let alone the superb fibre optic access available almost everywhere in Slovenia. The people at Movistar did try to sell us IPTV as an “obligatory” part of a certain mobile phone & internet access package they seemed to be pushing hard at the time, even though Monika kept telling them that all we needed was the fastest internet access they could provide, and that was it (we hadn’t had any TVs in our apartment ever since we’d moved from Slovenia to Berlin five years ago, which is still one of the best decisions of our lives – now we can truly appreciate TV for the brainwashing propaganda shitbox it actually is, whenever we happen to see one somewhere). Fortunately, the phone guy who arrived to hook us up about a week after we’d signed the contract revealed to us that IPTV is not really “obligatory” or “unavoidable” in any way. He called Movistar, had them change our package, and told us that TV would have sucked away half of our bandwidth anyway, had we actually opted for it. He also told us that fibre optics were in the works, but that, even though the cables should have been installed in our city about a year ago, this particular crown achievement of the local telecommunications industry would, in accordance with the infamous Canarian relaxed pace, have to wait for another few months… Or maybe years. We’re keeping our fingers crossed, but not too tightly, because we wouldn’t want them to fall off due to the long-term lack of blood circulation.

WATER

Last but not least: tap water. Man, was that a real pain in the posterior.

– During the initial inquiry about water at the Illustrious City Hall, they told us to inquire at the city waterworks.

– Next morning, at the city waterworks, we were told that our apartment building only had a single official water meter for the whole building, and that the rest was not their problem. We should drop by the apartment building’s “President of the Community” to clear up the matter.

– The President of the Community (or La Presidenta) told us that the water was a real pain in the posterior (no shit), because our apartment building still didn’t have “official water” “officially” distributed to individual apartments via separate meters. We’d have to drop by the Illustrious City Hall yet again in order to procure some sort of a temporary license for a provisional water meter.

– After waiting at the Illustrious City Hall for another couple of hours, Monika tried to explain the situation to an official. As the official wasn’t sure what to do, Monika called La Presidenta, who attempted to explain the situation over the phone. Still unsure what to do exactly despite having her ear gnawed off by our Presidenta, the official gave us an appointment in order to clear up the “water situation” – in a week or so, of course.

– In a week or so, the appointment took place, but it involved yet another official, who didn’t know anything about anything, so poor Monika had to explain it all again. The explanation, however, began about an hour late due to the new official’s climacteric coffee break and her subsequent unfortunate accident with a scanner. (After she’d put in a bunch of clipped-together papers and, naturally, caused a paper jam, the device froze, so it obviously had to be reset. I kept trying to tell her to turn it off and turn it on again, but instead of listening to the prime directive of IT, she called the IT department, which, after fifteen minutes of fruitless torture, told her to turn it off and turn it on again.) By that time the poor official was so upset she no longer conveyed any impression of knowing what she was doing, and she also declined talking to La Presidenta over the phone: she just decided to fill out who knows what sort of paperwork, probably randomly dreamed-up, and told us that “someone would contact us eventually in order to hook up our water“. Of course, we asked what “eventually” meant: a day? A few days? A week? A month? The answer, my friend, was, quite sadly and rather impotently, blowing in the wind.

– As it is a bit difficult to actually do anything in flats without water – especially when you want to start fixing and painting the walls – we went to see La Presidenta again in order to bitch and whine about our lacklustre attempt to solve anything whatsoever at the Illustrious City Hall. Reasonably pissed at the Illustrious City Hall, she told us to go to the waterworks again in order to procure an “official meter”. Afterwards she’d call a plumber she knew (who had already hooked up all the other flats), and we’d just fix the water issue ourselves. By that time it had become plenty obvious that fixing things yourself was the way to go on the Canaries, especially if you ever wanted to get anything done at all.

– Next day we set out on a quest to the waterworks headquarters yet again – unfortunately for us, as we didn’t yet have a car at that time, located halfway between our city and Granadilla, a picturesque village higher up in the hills. This time, however, our quest took place during one of the very rare monumental annual storms on Tenerife, which began shortly after I snapped a photo of this neat little rainbow:

At the waterworks they had no idea why in the hell we would want to buy one of their “official meters”, as the virtually identical ones sold by the local hardware stores were much cheaper, they informed us kindly. Fed up with everything, Monika told them she didn’t give a damn, that La Presidenta wanted this particular meter, and that she – Monika, that is – wanted to buy one of their “very official meters” despite the very rude price. The waterworks staff just shrugged and sold her one. As I’ve already mentioned, at that time we still didn’t have a car, so, nursing the precious official meter, we ended up loitering on the doorstep, staring at the storm – a true downpour, a deluge, and a rare though welcome sight, locally. Soon we were joined by another local victim of the waterworks, after which yet another guy, apparently a Moroccan beset by water problems himself, offered us all a ride down to the city, for which all three of us were extremely grateful.

La Presidenta was happy with the counter, but her plumber kept failing to pick up his phone for days. By that time we had already arranged for our engineer friend to check the electricity (see previous post), so he also hooked up the goddamn water while he was at it. The friend in question may almost be a rocket scientist (and he is an airplane pilot as well), but he is obviously not an experienced plumber, so one of the first things we did after moving into our new flat was flood the furniture workshop belonging to one of our neighbours that he had on the ground floor. What a fine opportunity to introduce yourself to new neighbours! So Monika and I helped clean out the water – a trifling matter of approximately 160 litres that had poured into the man’s workshop, drenching some of his prized flea market possessions – while the engineer was attempting, quite fruitlessly and sort of nervously by now, to identify the correct pipe. The budding plumber that I am, I hesitantly dared propose that we unplug all of the unconnected pipes and blow or pour a bit of water into a faucet in our flat. It turned out that this was the correct plumbing logic, and thus we finally identified the correct accursed pipe and finished the job.

INTERMISSION

This particular leg of our grand scheme thus came to an end. We started fixing the usual stuff in our new abode – the cracks in the concrete, typical of this sort of apartment blocks and nothing to worry about, but if you don’t fix these while your flat is empty, before painting the walls, you’ll most likely never eradicate them later, after you litter your lair with furniture. We almost finished fixing and painting the bedroom walls… But then the “day of cheap plane tickets” arrived and we had to return to Berlin in order to take care of the rest of the outstanding issues.

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