Licence Plates

Nicholas Quirke was dragged from his sleep at 4.30 am on 17 June 2020 and virtually sleep-walked through his shower and his breakfast. By the time they were on the road by 5.30am he was awake, though still mystified by the process one had to go through when buying a car here in China. It seemed that the key factor in getting a car, owning a vehicle was the ownership of Licence Plates and in certain cases the purchaser of number plates could be as expensive, maybe even more than the car. Getting a number is therefore a problem, though there is a national lottery for ownership of a number plate, which, some years previously Peng had one, which meant that it was assigned to the car he was replacing. A car has to be purchased through A dealer and once this has been completed, the number plate has to be registered and associated with the new vehicle. This is not a straight forward process. It seems to take about 4 weeks and involves a number of steps, the first, the handing over of National I’d and paper work relating to the old car to ‘a man’, in the meantime the new car was assigned a temporary licence number. The next step, and it was the one that had lured Nicholas out of his bed, was to take the new car to be photographed and documented. The centre where this was done was near the airport which was an hours drive away and as the centre opened at 7am the idea was to get there early. They arrived by 6.30 and there was already a queue. Of course, they joined the cavalcade of numberless cars, vans, lorries, minibuses, that were waiting for the process to begin at 7 and meanwhile they watched the waiting hanging out, smoking, sporting mankinis and even watching one guy walk into to the trees and take a crap. At seven, and it was already sweltering, the parade and process started and it was quite swift except they would only allow one person peer car to enter the compound and Nicholas had to perch first on a rock, then in a dissolute park and finally walk 2 km to a cafe in the airport. By 11 the process was complete, though still no number plate, and Peng collected him and they drove to a nearby mall where they would eventually have lunch. The Mall was again very smart, full of quirky sculptures and with the new regulations in force the area was being disinfected by workers in protective suits using guns from a science fiction movie. As always they seemed to order too much for lunch and had to take a goody bag back with them. They cleaned the apartment on their return, had supper and wait till the end of the week before the Licence Plates could, would, be fitted. 18 hours on the go was to much for his eyes and he drifted to sleep at an early hour.

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