After three months, our car finally cleared
customs and I was able to pick it up. I hadnt really missed driving
all that much because its so easy to get around here but by having
it, wed be able to go to some out of the way places. Somehow the
car found its way to Utrecht, about 40 miles away, and thats where
I went to retrieve it. Before we left the U.S. the car was getting
pretty low on gasoline and I thought it would be a terrific idea to
fill it up with cheap (dont complain about $2/gallon gasoline!)
American fuel. It also occurred to me that as terrific as that would
be for me, it might not be so terrific for the ship to be carrying
so much potentially explosive material so I bagged the idea. The car
left our house with a gallon and a half of gasoline, maybe two.
When I got to Utrecht, the car was waiting
patiently and forgave me for ignoring it for so long for which I was
very happy. I was concerned when they packed it in the container
that it would be safe from things that might fall that were in the
same container. You know how the airlines always tell you to be
careful opening the overhead bins because items may have shifted?
Same principle. Therefore, I thought it was necessary to explain how
important this was to me. By way of illustration, I told the movers
that I love my wife, I love my kids, and I love my car. My son Aaron
was standing next to me and further explained, "But not necessarily
in that order." So I inspected the car for damage and produced the
myriad of documents they wanted and I was free to go. The fuel gauge
seemed lower than I remembered it and I asked where there was a
station. He said about four kilometers in the direction of the
highway. Off I went. For about a half mile. It seems that these
dudes were so concerned about explosive material that they siphoned
off all the gasoline in the car. I called back to the terminal and
they dispatched a man who gave me four liters, a bit more than a
gallon, a 4.84 value!
I drove home feeling very conspicuous with my
Pennsylvania license plate in the land of the Dutch. We had not yet
received our green insurance card; all we had was a faxed version on
plain white paper. I was cautioned that the faxed version was not a
legal document because it wasnt green, but, if stopped, perhaps a
policeman would understand. But perhaps not. Therefore, caution was
a top priority. My Pennsylvania drivers license is also not a legal
document here (the reason that that hasnt been converted to a Dutch
one is a whole other story) so I carried my passport to show I was
not an arch-villain and was really allowed to be here.
Nothing happened on the trip home. The next
hurdle was getting a Dutch license tag. I had to go to RDW (their
version of PennDOT) to have the car inspected. I called for an
appointment and because of their work load, I had to wait more than
two weeks for my time slot. When I got there, there were no other
cars waiting for inspection and by the time I left almost two hours
later, two others had come in. Three whole cars in two hours made it
look like a pretty heavy day which explained my two week delay.
Passing this inspection was not going to be a
problem. The car is in great shape. American emission standards are
tougher than those in Europe, so this was a slam dunk. A slam dunk
that clanged off the rim and bounced 20 feet backwards. The car
doesnt have a rear fog light, side turn signals, and horror of
horrors, the parking lights were amber in color, not white, and they
blinked as turn signals.
What is a rear fog light? Ive not seen a single
car here with anything that seems to resemble a rear fog light.
Theyre disguised. In the U.S. we have two reverse lights, one on
each side. Here there is only one reverse light. The other is a fog
light. To correct this flagrant violation, there are two options.
First is to replace one rear light assembly. This will cost only
450. The alternative is to have a light installed under the center
rear of the car. In the pictures they showed me of our model car, it
doesnt look awful. The light is 20. Not bad. The labor to install
it along with either a new switch (I hope not) or connecting it to
the existing front fog light switch (I hope), is a mere 230. So
250 or 450 for a rear fog light. Were going with the additional
Side turn signals are on every car here. I never
noticed that they were turn signals, though, because they look like
theyre only little reflectors. Theyre placed just ahead of the
drivers and front right-side passengers doors, and they blink
along with the turn signals on the front and rear. Its probably
documented somewhere that these little buggers save at least 685,122
lives every year in Zuid-Holland alone (the province where we live)
so I sure dont mind forking up the 250. Not at all.
The amber light may cause some serious
controversy. Maybe even an international incident which youll read
about in all the papers. Replacing the bulbs is a little deal.
Really. They said it would be 5. I dont know if thats for one
bulb or two and I dont care. If it costs 10, Ill still be happy.
The man doing the work says thats all I need regarding this and as
evidence, he points to the American car he imported for himself and
replacing the bulbs was all he had to do. However, the guy at
DutchDOT had other ideas. His English, while infinitely better than
my Dutch, was not great so perhaps I misunderstood. What I think he
said was that not only do the bulbs of the parking lights have to be
white, they cant blink with the turn signal. I need other bulbs
that would blink. This would require two new light assemblies for
the front. If we assume that they cost the same as the one I was
quoted for the rear, were talking about 900 just so that these
bulbs dont blink. This is why I dont care if it costs 5 or 10
for the bulbs. I dont even care if its 15.
Theres no getting around it: this work has to
get done. All but the front light assemblies. I made an appointment
with the dealer and they even volunteered to pick up and deliver the
car from the dealer which is in Rotterdam about 15 miles from here.
The man was supposed to be here Wednesday evening. Perhaps you heard
me mention earlier that it doesnt snow much here. Not too much,
anyway, just some flurries that cling to the trees and are gone by
midmorning. Wednesday afternoon it snowed, the biggest snowfall here
in four years we were told. As snow goes, it really wasnt much.
Those of you in the east and Midwest will laugh when I say it was
only about four inches. Those of you in Florida and Southern
California will either have vague memories of snow or wont know
what Im talking about. But there were two problems. The first is
that the lack of significant snowfall means there is a lack of snow
removal equipment. Traffic was awful, much worse than usual. Second
is that my car, more than any other Ive ever driven, is terrible in
the snow. Its a rear wheel drive thats heavy in the front, a
dynamite combination, but we didnt get it for snow, we got it for
beautiful summer days which will eventually happen and they cant
come soon enough! Our next appointment for the work is Monday and, I
hope, the next inspection will be before the end of the week. Then
well have our license plate and will be legal enough to drive to
Antwerp or Groningen or somewhere. Zoom zoom.