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Thursday December 18, 2008

The Kindness of Strangers

There we were bumping along the mud caked lanes, not a soul in sight, when our hire car suddenly listed to one side. Hire car, you say? Haven’t you been living in rural Mallorca long enough to have purchased your own by now? True, but having a car in our neck of the woods is a tricky business. For starters, our winding streets are as curvy as JLo’s hips and about as wide as Posh Spice’s smile so scraping against rocky walls is an everyday hazard. In truth our car looks as though it’s spent half its natural life speeding through a cheese grater, a phenomenon which Tofol, the owner of our local car hire company, cheerfully takes in his stride. Of course, as any Expat will tell you, the real reason for long-term car hire lies in the hub caps, or rather lack of them. If these little silver saucers are removed, the police assume you’re a tourist and leave you in peace. No random stop and search and no ticking off for minor traffic offences. How cool is that?

On inspection, we discovered that a front tyre was as flat as a tortilla. With no jack in the boot, we headed off to Tofol’s repair shop, luckily only five minutes away. Limping into the garage just after one o’clock, we were relieved to spot a mechanic in overalls sitting outside the entrance munching on a bocadillo and drinking a beer. Alan, my Scotsman, called over to him.
‘We’ve got a puncture, any chance of fixing a new wheel?’
The man sighed but beckoned us inside, tossing his lunch on to the bench.
‘Sorry to disturb your break..’ we mumbled in unison.
Pottering about the garage he made some tests with an air pressure gauge, announcing that a nail was the culprit. When the job was done, he wiped his hands on a cloth, keen to get back to his lunch.
‘Fantastic!’ beamed the Scotsman. ‘One more thing, you couldn’t take a quick look at my faulty seat belt?’
He shook his head and said we’d need to see the garage mechanic. We gaped at him. ‘But aren’t you Tofol’s mechanic?’ I asked. ‘Me? I own the bicycle shop next door.’
‘So you don’t work here at all?’ I asked.
‘No, I was just having my lunch outside on the bench as I always do.’
‘But why on earth did you change our wheel?’ I persisted.
He shrugged good-naturedly. ‘I thought you were tourists needing some help.’
Overcome with gratitude we offered payment, but Toni, for that was his name, wouldn’t hear of it. Instead, we joined him outside on the bench until the garage mechanic returned to share the joke.

The seat belt still doesn’t work because it needs replacing but we can live with that until the new one arrives. At any rate, it’ll give us an excuse to return to the garage with a couple of beers to share with gallant Toni on the bench in the shade.

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