Ilivetolearn's Blog

March 1, 2006

Welcome to tort city

Filed under: on the road,Spain — ilivetolearn @ 8:57 am

My dad, taking a cue from road signs on the peripheries of small towns, called any random unimportant town “Resume Speed, (name a state).” I have decided the Spanish equivalent is “Bandas Sonoras, (name a province).” In reality, this sign alerts drivers that rumble strips are coming up. But it would make a great name for a town. (It also means soundtrack, by the way.)

Roads here are full of warnings, legal advisories, and cautionary signage in words and symbols. On the highways a constantly changing display of lighted billboard-sized messages tells motorists that the use of seat beats is obligatory, that cell phone calls can cost lives, that one should moderate one’s velocity in tunnels, that rain renders pavement slippery (ok, they sound more pompous in translation). Even the cars get into the act—ours emits a shrill beep and flashes “ice warn” whenever the outside temperature is 3 degrees C or lower.

Pedestrians, on the other hand, are on their own, navigating through endless construction sites, potholes, random sets of steps without handrails, torn-up sidewalks, wet cement (I kid you not) and other dangers without so much as a cone or a string of caution tape. Bill and I saw a guy on a bike sink into some just-poured cement one evening on the way to dinner, and on a whim, assuming workers would replace the actual pavement the next day, Bill wrote “NR (heart) BC.” That message, and the tire tracks, were there for months. On the way to school one day to retrieve children, I literally had to tiptoe across a section of asphalt tilting every which way in four-inch blocks—it had just been dismantled by a guy with a jackhammer, who was still working about a foot from where I crossed.

In the US this would be a lawsuit waiting to happen, so we now call each of these venues “Tort City.” En español, Ciudad de los Agravios. You’ll find it right near Bandas Sonoras.

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