Sunday, April 18, 2010

The parking problem in Bulgaria, and other London lessons

It’s London. A bar in the most elegant city hotel. But somehow you always take the weather with you…
Like Drago here. He’s got a problem. His apartment block in Sofia is going down. The place has really seen better days. Not least because of the cars.
The rapid transformation of Bulgarian society from Eastern bloc austerity to capitalist materialism has meant every sucker with a job and a cup of ambition is driving a car.
Not a special car. A VW Passat, a Nissan Micra, a Mazda, maybe an Alfa… But of course Sofia was not design to accommodate a million cars. The roads, sure, but not the parking lots.
The simple fact is that there is nowhere to park in Sofia. So people park everywhere. The pavements and sidewalks of the city are parked kerb to doorstep with Passats and Mazdas. So tight, that you can’t walk on the sidewalk.
And Drago’s a pedestrian. He’s lucky enough to have a flat right across the road from this workplace at Radio Sofia. So he doesn’t need a car. He can get anywhere in the city on foot.
From his base in the apartment complex. This little, six-storey number here. The one with the twenty hatchbacks parked on the pavement outside. From here he can walk anywhere.
But the problem is indoors. There on the fourth floor, where that Alexander has decided to open a business in his flat. A spa! He opens a spa! In a two-bedroom flat! With Jacuzzi and tanning beds and massage tables. In the same flat where he stays with his wife and their two children!
One day you suddenly notice posters up around the neighbourhood. Radio jingles on Drago’s own radio station. Last week he found himself having to do a live read publicizing the illegal spa in his own building.
Of course it’s a screaming violation of the building’s code of conduct! But no one’s going to say anything, because Alexander is such an uncomplicated individual. Such a direct, salt-of-the-earth guy. You could never get him to sympathise with the building code of conduct. A defiant man.
The last time someone raised an issue with him was the time Kaloyan asked him to stop leaving his rubbish bags in the passage. He got a broken nose for that.
Was the new business really a spa? Not a brothel? A knock shop? A place of prostitution? How can we be sure? Well, we know, because the last brothel was the one on the third floor. When they opened that, the place was suddenly full of young ladies. That was actually rather pleasant. And there was less equipment involved, less threat to the structural integrity.
And those ladies are polite. They’re still there, for all he knows. It’s just difficult to tell them apart from the women running the home-shopping business on the second floor…

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