Tuesday, July 15, 2008

My Life as a Publicity Truck Anthropologist

 id=Spanish neighbourhoods are seldom quiet and, yes, I've accepted the fact that people here don't need a phone or be face-to-face to conduct lengthy conversations. Half a city block is hardly an impediment to having a nice roaring chat.

But one day last spring the street was louder than usual.
It was squawkier than usual.

In fact I thought it was a car stereo blaring at the usual eardrum-popping decibels favoured by most young Spaniards. But the second time it happened, I realized that even by Spanish standards this was ear-bleedingly loud. The third time, I actually grabbed my Nancy Drew magnifying glass and looked out the window. And by grabbed my Nancy Drew magnifying glass and looked out the window I really mean that I asked Señor Gato Gringo to look out the window and to promptly report back. Which he did.

It was a publicity truck.

I confess that upon hearing this I sprung from the sofa and rushed over to the window my curiosity was piqued. What was this? - 1953? Industrialized countries still used publicity vehicles? Why? To advise us all to grab a bible and head for our bomb shelters? Should I duck and cover? Will they sound an all-clear? Even for La Línea, this was bizarre.

Of course, this was only the beginning. Over the course of the last seven months we would encounter many many very loud publicity vehicles in La Línea as well as in other parts of Andalucía. If the promoter is savvy and plasters a poster to the side of his vehicle, we can with great erudition figure out what is being advertised - for instance a bullfight or a concert - otherwise we are completely in the dark.

And having carefully observed said vehicles over these past months and taken meticulously detailed notes, I can safely say (in my role as Publicity Truck Anthropologist) that I've spotted marked similarities within this herd of seemingly disparate creatures; namely:

1) Their message is not only tinny but entirely incomprehensible - not just to me I suspect but to those who share the speaker's mother tongue. Presumably this is because their audio system dates from the Spanish Civil War. Franco called and he wants his loudspeakers back.

2) They are very very loud. Given that most streets in our town are one-way and extremely narrow (pedestrians or motorized vehicles were clearly an afterthought to La Línea's road planners), the already deafening racket bounces up up up into the windows of us those unfortunate enough to be living on the top floor of their apartment buildings.

3) A natural corollary to featuring an unintelligible voice-over and an unreasonably loud sound system is to add a soundtrack. In fact, I suspect that it is de rigueur to select music best suited for - and probably plucked from - a 'mental hygiene' classroom film from 1964.

4) The vehicles are clunkers seldom pretty. Sometimes they are vans, other times trucks, and often a station wagon. Being that I didn't think station wagons still existed pretty much guarantees that, in the evolutionary world of cars, they are firmly idling in the Middle Pleistocene period.

All in all, I have to wonder about the efficacy of advertising in such a Fred Flintstone-like manner. I mean, Spain is hardly an illiterate country and Spaniards are voracious readers. And to be honest, these publicity cars scare the crap out of me. Not just because they're really loud (which they are) but I keep wondering if there's a really important message that I'm missing. Are they closing the border with Gib again? Are terrorist pinheads targeting sites in La Línea (God, I had to wipe the tears from my eyes as I typed that), or has someone thrown dead water buffaloes into the town's water supply?

Or maybe they are mental hygiene tips blaring through the streets of La
Línea. That might explain why Señor G.G. has been building that bomb shelter on the roof and washing his hands a great deal and rereading his driver's manual. His Spanish must be a lot better that I thought.


Bluestreak said...

so funny!!!!! I was just in the Granada hills for a couple of weeks in one of the shitiest towns I´ve ever laid eyes on. They had the publicity truck too and at first I got scared there was a bomb threat or a revolution going on or something. That is, until I barely made out something over the speakers about re-upholstery. The car parked it´s ass right in front of someone´s house and just let it roar. Talk about targeting an audience. Where am I?

neil wykes said...

Our little van of aural delight broadcasts; funeral announcements, adverts for businesses, a "what's on" guide and information about courses run by the town. So I'm told anyway, I've yet to understand anything except an advert for the PP in the elections earlier this year