Monday, June 23, 2003

The longest wait

Christmas is an exciting time when you’re a child, you wait and wait, preying that the day will come but the more you yearn the slower time passes. That day promises presents and food and excitement, it promises that you will be furnished with things beyond your wildest dreams.

When you buy a car, you step through the looking glass into a parallel universe where Christmas day becomes Car service day.

A car service is an excruciating time when you’re an adult, you wait and wait, preying that the phone will ring but the more you yearn the slower time passes. That day promises torture and torment and vast expenditure, it promises that you will debagged of all you financial wealth in a slow and systematic way.

When you have a service you drive your car to the garage and everything will be fine in exactly the same way it has been for ages; you’re getting from A to B without too much fuss or hassle. But despite this you know that you’re about to find out you’re driving a death trap. At least if you have to take it in with the bonnet on fire, you are already preparing for the worst.

So you hand your car in and hand the keys over, the clock has started at usually around £100. This is for your 400-point check, checks that usually include counting the number of front windscreens.

You don’t watch the patient go through its operation, you walk away from the garage. But don’t look back because you will see a greasy monkey jumping into your car, and driving it into the garage on two wheels in reverse without taking the handbrake off.

And then the agony begins. The call they promised in an hour doesn’t come. After two hours you call in and they seem incredulous that you didn’t find out through telepathy that they’ve found a small problem, and they’re waiting for a quote for a part. They’ll call as soon as they get the price

You ring off and pace the floor for the next three hours and call in again. The part cost £2.50, you tell them to fit it, and they tell you they already have. Great, you’ll pick the car up in ten minutes.

“But we’ve found another problem, your mywifeneedsanewtumbledrier is down to 6.33042 on the q axis, 0.443 on the middle row”
“Is that serious?”
“If it goes it will kill you, then hunt down your family and torture and murder them, it will delete you identity and you will be erased from history for the rest of time”
“On the other hand it might be fine”
“No you’d better do it”
“If you do it now, it won’t need doing again for another million miles”
“Or your next service, whichever comes first”
“How much will it be”
“Well Dixons are doing them for £250”
“Er, yes, Dixons, the car part supplier, for another £100 they’ll throw in a fridge, er, complete set of tyres”
“Are my tyres dangerous?”
“If they go they will kill you, then hunt down your fam…”
“OK, do them too, what’s the total cost likely to be”

At this point he mumbles a lot of numbers, the only audible ones are under £5.

“Oh Christ”
“Your spark plugs may be OK, I’ll knock those off”
“(grasping for air) Great, thanks, how much will it be”
“(losing consciousness) OK, just do it, do it all, let’s get it over and done with”
“We’ve done it already, you can come and pick it up whenever you’re ready”
“OK, I’ll be over as soon as I can sell the cats”

And you pick the car up and drive it off and it’s no different to how it was when you drove in. Don’t believe me? my service included £17 to tell me that my exhaust was a bit noisy.


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