What’s the French for clutch cable?
It was 10 degrees in Figueres yesterday. I think. I was there for 20 minutes and didn’t get out of the car.
Yesterday morning I headed off to Figueres for warmth and culture in Spain. The plan was to have lunch, visit the Dali Museum, do a little shopping, and head home. Good plan, didn’t happen.
Instead I spent 8 hours in La Jonquiera, border town extraordinaire without the live sex. It’s the kind of place that makes you think of the old joke – First Prize – 8 hours in La Jonquiera, Second prize – One week in La Jonquiera. My 8 hour stay was completely involuntary.
Let the Adventure Begin
I had crossed the border into Spain and was on the AP-7 motorway, about 250 metres before the exit to La Jonquiera, shifted into 5th, heard a TWOOOING noise and the clutch pedal sank to the floor, useless. Never panic when weird stuff happens to your car. I managed to get from the left lane to the right lane and coasted around the exit towards the tollbooths.
Unfortunately there were cars in both lanes so I had to stop about 15 feet from the booth. This was kind of deja-vu, reminding me of the time that my transmission went on the Buffalo side of the Peace Bridge right beside the toll booth except that was at 1 in the morning.
I decided that I might as well go and try and explain my plight to the man in the booth. Have I mentioned that about the only thing I can do in Spanish is order beer and find the toilet? I think that’s all the toll booth guy could do in French. Lots of talking with hands and he finally came and looked at the sunken clutch. "Mecanicien" he said. OK, he can also tell you you need a mechanic. At least he didn’t scream at me to get my f****** car off his f****** bridge the way the toll booth guy in Buffalo did. Maybe on the Peace Bridge the toll booth guys are paid a commission.
He pushed the car to the barrier, went back into the booth and leaned out the window to say 35 centimes, waited til I paid, lifted the barrier, and then came back out of the booth and pushed me through the barrier. He then stuck his head in the window and said "Mecanicien, gauche", went to the back of the car and pushed me off to the traffic circle.
I now had two pieces of vital information: the tollbooth guy knew more French than I knew Spanish, and, there was a mechanic somewhere in town.
Finding a mechanic on a Saturday afternoon
There was one other thing I knew. There was no way that I could coast the car downhill through the traffic (all those French people buying booze and cigarettes) and try and look for a sign – in Spanish – that said something I could interpret as mechanic. I turned at the first right and coasted down the hill to the entrance of a supermarket parking lot. I managed to coast into a parking spot next to the building. Definitely a post-modern hell!
On the other side of the parking lot there’s an AGIP petrol station (gas station). Figuring that they would at least know where there was a mechanic I headed in to the convenience store that seems to be a feature of gas stations in Spain. The manager spoke French. She spoke it at the same speed that she spoke Spanish, very fast. At this point I had no idea what the word for clutch cable was so I just explained that my car couldn’t ‘roule’ and that I needed a ‘mecanicien’ and that it was ‘d’urgence’.
She discussed it with the two other women working with her and they pored through an address book. Finally they agreed on a number and dialed. Nothing. No conversation. "It’s not 3 o’clock" she explained. "If he’s working he won’t be finished lunch but it’s Saturday so he may not be working"
She went on to say that her colleague was going home now and she would go to the mechanic and tell him to come when he was finished lunch, if he was working.
I went outside to wait. It was 2.45 pm, I had been in La Jonquiera for 15 minutes.
Still to come – part 2 – in which I discover that the French for clutch cable is cable d’embrayage.