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Yesterday was a nerve wracking day.
It’s been two years since the car was last tested for the ITV – the Spanish equivalent of an MOT- and it couldn’t be put off any longer.
Last week Jack rang the test centre and made the appointment; 3.30pm on Monday 30th November. So at midday yesterday preparations began in earnest.

First we popped the hood to check oil and windscreen fluids. EEK – what oil!!!
Then I looked at the tyres which looked okay (we’d singularly failed to do that last time and were left looking suitably stupid when the guy pointed out flat, smooth rubber where once tread used to be). Finally I checked all the lights were working.
Well, we agreed, if it’s anything else, it’s out of our control.

We drove up to the garage to buy some oil and give the car her bi-annual wash and brush up. There’s nothing in the test that says the car should be clean, I just figured that it might help to give the impression that we actually do exercise some kind of care over our vehicle. You know and I know that’s a load of cobblers but the ITV test guys don’t read this blog.

Finally, we got together all the documentation and headed up to Los Realejos.
Once in the office we handed over our documents and waited while the girl checked for the appointment. No appointment was there.
There’s a funny thing that happens when things start to go wrong around here which I suspect may be a stress related syndrome; we both become Spanish-deaf. Unable to make out a word the girl was saying, we moved, baffled, to the back of the room while the next in the queue was seen.

Just as anxiety levels were reaching boiling point we were called back to the counter and with a smile, told to join line number 1. We headed back to the car, nerves jangling.

With Spanish-deaf effect now at chronic levels, we bumbled through the rapid fire instructions, turning on the indicator when he wanted the reverse light and turning the engine off when we were asked to move forward. Sometimes we got it so wrong that the guy asked us to step out of the car while he put her through her paces for us. Still, other than a non-functioning licence plate light (for which I was pretty sure they weren’t going to fail us) we moved to the final test.

Another case of stepping out of the car while the steering wheel was jerked rapidly and brakes were applied at emergency stop pressure and we were done. Well, apart that is from the bald inside edges of the front tyres.
So it’s two new tyres, a new light bulb, back to the ITV centre and the sack for me in my ‘pre-ITV test tester’ role before that illusive little coloured sticker can be plastered onto the windscreen. Sigh.

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The queue’s eerily quiet beneath its blanket of nervous anticipation. Some are sitting in their cars, flicking distractedly through newspapers, others are standing beside their vehicles shuffling their feet or examining their bitten nails.
I’ve never witnessed a silent gathering of Tinerfeños before where everyone keeps their own company and just waits. It’s an aberration and it runs completely contrary to their normally gregarious and noisy nature.
The next two cars in the queue drive forward into the hanger-sized garage and out of view. I switch on the ignition and slowly drive forward, just three cars away from the unknown. I haven’t been this nervous behind the wheel since I took my driving test and no sooner has that thought entered my brain than it travels down into my right leg which responds by emulating the same state it was in all those years ago and judders onto the pedal sending the car kangaroo-ing forward and narrowly avoiding bumping into the car in front.

I’m in the queue for the Spanish equivalent of the MOT test; the ITV. Unlike in Britain where I’d hand over the keys to some mechanic and then dawdle around the shops for a couple of hours before returning to a verdict and usually a bill, here the ITV is performed in only a handful of centres across the island and you have to drive the car through a series of tests and checks at the end of which you either receive a little coloured dot for your windscreen or with an instruction to carry out the necessary work within 15 days to make the grade.

“Freno! Luz! Izquierda! Derecha!” shouts the man with the clipboard from behind the car.
As usual my Spanish understanding is on a satellite system with a few seconds delay between receiving in ears and translating in brain which causes a sort of Lee Evans effect in my movements. The wipers are going and I’m revving madly as the man repeats “Freno! Freno!” before my brain remembers that the brake pedal’s the middle one.
After the lights fiasco I settle down a bit and take the car through its various tests and emerge at the end in confident expectation of the little coloured sticker.
“Two new front tyres” says the man with the clipboard, “15 days”.
“What!?” I get out of the car onto wobbly legs and look at the front tyres where the tread used to be. I can’t believe it. I’ve topped up the oil and the engine coolant, washed polished and vacuumed inside and out and not once have I looked at the tyres before joining that silent queue. What’s worse, not once have I looked at them before driving around this island on the equivalent of Michael Stipe’s head.
As I head off to the local garage for two new tyres, I realise I’ve just been through the most efficient system I’ve ever encountered on Tenerife where, in the space of the 40 minutes I was there, sixteen cars were rigorously tested against a set of standard criteria and passed or failed accordingly with no fuss, no vested interests and no ambiguity. No wonder everyone in that queue was so quiet, it’s an alien environment for a Tinerfeño.

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