Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Tin Can of Death

We've been walking and taking the train and tram and bus everywhere for almost 2 months now. And this week we were talking to a teacher at school about trying to buy a car. It's really difficult here- they're Very Expensive-  a10 year old car with questionable mileage (Everyone has told us that EVERYONE turns back the odometer, and so it is not the true mileage on the vehicle.) will be around $7,000 USD. Seriously- as Father Guido Sarducci on SNL said years ago-- "It's all about the supply and the demand!" That's the only thing we can think of anyway. It's also about the VAT (value added tax) and the other fees I guess.

So, last weekend we borrowed this teacher's car- a 1994 Opel that he said he'd sell to us for $1000. He said we could use it while we decide if we want it, which was very generous of him. On Sunday I drove Jack to a birthday party in it, and it was exactly like the old Opel my family had when I was in high school- you can't kill the thing, but you kind of wish it would die, just so you don't have to drive it anymore. In high school, when the weather was cold, first you had to scrape the outside windshield. Then you had to get into the car and scrape the inside of the windshield. This was the same way. It wasn't cold enough to frost over, but there was a healthy supply of napkins in the glovebox, and they were well utilized on the steamy windshield. And oh yeah, he forgot to mention that the windshield wipers don't really work.  Later in the day, Kent managed it - there's a sweet spot where, if you hold the wipers a little bit past the "on" position, they'll actually work. But you have to hold the control "on" until they start to work, then you can let go. Good to know.

Here's the view from inside the Opel when it's raining, while you're trying to drive. You feel very safe in this car, yes??

 Kent was annoyed I was taking pictures instead of helping him look for oncoming vehicles.

Today I went to the gas station to put gas in the car. I got out of the car to fill the tank and this man was standing there. He asked me something in Hungarian. I said "Beszélsz angolul?" which is my "go to" phrase-- Do you speak English? he said "Yes, a bit", and asked how much gas I wanted. I had 5000 Forint, so that's what I asked for. He opened the lid to the gas, and noticed the rag stuffed where the cap should be. He pulled it out, holding it between his fingers like it was something dead he had to handle.

I said "It's not my car!" (Complete disavowal -- even though it might be our car soon.) I said "do you know where I can buy one?" He said "Wait a minute" and walked away. I was amazed when he came back holding a gas cap. He put it in the car, and voila! I said "How much?" He looks uncertain. I said "500?" He said yes, but then I only had 1000 Forint (about $5) and I gave it to him. He lifted his eyebrows "Change?" Expectant pause..... (He saved me looking all over the place for one)...... I said "Keep it!' He said "Thanks", and walked away. I'm left wondering if he routinely takes the gas caps from other people's cars so he can re-sell them later. It's not really a stretch here....

Anyway- the rag is gone, and the gas will not evaporate as quickly, and I have learned to always get out of the car to make sure the gas cap is not stolen to be sold later to some housewife.  Ah-- another cross cultural experience....

No comments: