Here’s a funny thing: you can’t drive trucks in Bulgaria in the afternoons. I know, you couldn’t make this stuff up, could you?
‘Children. Weekend,’ said a policeman, by way of explanation. ‘Right, but it’s OK to run them over on a Saturday morning, is it?’ I retorted. ‘Da,’ he said, probably thinking he’d misheard. ‘Go 22.00.’
Oh, brilliant. Without boring you to death with tachograph rules, this news was a stinker. If I was stopping till 10pm, I would have to stop overnight – until 3am. But there weren’t any facilities; this was a lay-by. And remember it was hotter than Satan’s ballbag? Well, he’d just undone his flies.
The policeman, realising a young lad couldn’t possibly wait six hours for his supper, let me drive another mile or two to a proper rest area. Well, about seven miles, actually. Give somebody an inch and they’ll take a yard.
Safe parking areas
‘No parking,’ said the service station manager – with unnecessary belligerence, I felt – when i tucked the truck in discreetly. (Can you park an eighteen-wheeler discreetly?) But there was an unlit dustbowl area opposite, filling up rapidly with trucks as two more policemen flagged down transgressors.
I approached the police and asked whether the dustbowl would be a safe place to park overnight. ‘Maybe yes,’ one of them replied, which was about as useful as a chocolate teapot. ‘But diesel Mafia here,’ he added. Hmm, that sounds like maybe no, then. A nearby Bulgarian driver, however, confided, ‘OK, no problem.’
Now, whom do you trust in life? Would I waken after midnight to he and his buddies sticking lighted matches between my toes? In fact, would that be a prelude – a mere grace note, if you like – to something more sinister such as sexual deviance? Thinking about it, he’d looked a little like a mare on heat.
I spasmed with anguish and took a short stroll to think things over.
Bulgarian Diesel Mafia
Despite the Bulgarian driver’s specious assurances, the recent conference with Mr. Plod had left me with the distinct impression that things here were looking sticky. I mean, even the stoutest heart quails at the thought of being struck with blunt instruments, doesn’t it? Or sharp ones, come to that.
So, it was a toss-up: the possibility of a fateful assignation between a cosh and my head, or firing up the engine at 10pm, bending the rules and driving an hour to Greece. In the end the decision was made for me. At 9.55pm, the arm of the law – well, the knuckles, at least – tapped on the door and instructed me to drive on.
Shame really, I was rather looking forward to running over some children after breakfast..