The Consul Convertible has me hooked. It was made by Ford in the United Kingdom from 1951-62, and 1972-75 and is today a collector’s item. How many consuls do you suppose actually went out of their way to buy one, just so they could be driving a “consular car” in their consular position?
The closest I got to owning something like this was a 1969 Ford Mustang Convertible (one of my sons still drives it). Here’s the real thing, though:
Any talk about consuls and their cars usually leads to a non-consul muttering about the extra privileges that someone with consular license plates seems to enjoy. I’ve heard, and even read, about people who claim that’s the only reason why someone would want to be an honorary consul in the first place. “Free parking,” as they say.
The truth is quite different. First of all, any courtesy parking arrangements that a community offers the foreign consuls who work within that area are just that: a matter of courtesy. It’s a privilege designed to help the working conditions of foreign consuls. All economic benefits that flow to that community from their transactions – be they of a cultural, business, or educational nature – can be magnified whenever consuls can use their time more efficiently.
So, why shouldn’t other groups of people enjoy the same privilege? In the world of international diplomacy there’s that little principle called comity. This means that if our country, generally speaking, offers courtesies to the foreign consuls among us the nations where we have our consuls are expected to do the same.
Finally, we have to understand the meaning of a courtesy or a privilege. This is gratuitously offered and not something that can be asserted in a court of law. Our State Department has repeatedly said that the driving of a consular car – Consular Convertible, or otherwise – is not a right but a privilege. There’s an ample amount of incidents where consuls have been ticketed for parking violations. It’s another thing, then, that a community that doesn’t treat its foreign consuls with what’s perceived as utmost courtesy and understanding may not attract a new consulate as fast as one that’s tuned into the expectations of the appointing government.