I was shopping: normal, everyday, boring. When I returned to my car, such as it is, I noticed something hanging from underneath the engine. Or thereabouts. I don’t know cars. There was something long and pendulous hanging from the front passenger side.
I’ll admit, I was tempted to go back into the shop until the unknown thing had disappeared, but it seemed little was going to shift it. Having placed the shopping delicately on the back seat, ready for it to flomp to the side with the very first corner, smashing the eggs and crushing the bread, I took a little look under the front wing.
It was a cursory glance. I didn’t really want to identify this hanger-on. I’m not even sure if I would have recognised the axle, broken or otherwise.
Thankfully, I decided it was probably a stick, and would come loose somewhere on the road. This is not something I would recommend. I’m going to have to do a course: mechanics for the unwilling, that sort of thing.
To have a proper look, assuming I would know what I was looking at, I would have to lie on the ground.
This seemed a little desperate. I might as well carry a placard.
Driving like a dead person, I returned to the homestead, unloaded the shopping and had a proper look. I have very few qualms about lying down in my driveway. My neighbours have met me.
The possible “stick” turned out to be something rather more – attached to the car. Not a clue what, but it looked metallic, there was a slightly rusty shimmer. Certainly, it looked like it should have been connected somewhere, rather than crooked and a-dangle underneath the bonnet.
Down to the garage, and an excruciatingly tall apprentice folded himself onto the road, and examined my undercarriage. No dinner, flowers, nothing.
A plastic cover had sheared off at the bolt. A few clever twists of his trusty spanner, and the cover was off. It would need replacing at some point, he told me. However, my main problem was that there was a fine layer of gearbox oil sitting in the now-removed cover. I had sprung a leak (not me personally).
All booked in, the fellas would locate the source of the leak and, possibly, fix it.
The reason for the uncertainty became obvious as the garage owner translated my predicament. If it was a slight leak, perhaps a seal, it would be infinitely fixable. If it transpired that the problem was deeper, it could mean a new gearbox. This would be more expensive than the car.
A memory flashed through my mind.
Everyone loves their first car. I was no exception. It was a heap: off-red, sun-bleached bonnet, more miles than Nebraska, and an immobiliser which was, in effect, two inches of circuit board which had to be pushed into the dashboard before the key would make any impact on the ignition. I loved that car.
I had been driving for, perhaps, six weeks. Turning into my driveway, I crashed into a post which had been outside the house for as long as we’d lived there. I was, to my credit, trying to avoid a squirrel. I may have spared a life, but I’d knocked the front bumper clean off and watched as a headlight flew in splinters across the bedding plants.
Freshly blinded by a salt-river of shock and embarrassment, I flew into the house and had my mother call the garage for me. When I finally got the car back, I challenged myself to drive further and better than before. I drove all over Cornwall. I got up as far as Surrey. I had practically gone global. Oh, the pride.
That first car failed its MOT and broke my heart.
The next one had a CD player. I had entered the modern age. I drove to Dartmoor with bran-flake regularity.
I spent a fortune on my third car. Its previous owner had tried to turn it into a sports car. They had blacked out the rear window, lowered the suspension to make it hug the road, put in big, fat, almost-impossible-to-replace tyres, a wardrobe of speakers in the boot, and an exhaust pipe the size of a baby’s head. Ultimately, it remained a small, boxy Fiat Seicento. It didn’t need any of that.
My fourth car only came about because the Seicento gave up the ghost in remarkable style. Pretty much, everything under the bonnet fell out. I hated my fourth car because it wasn’t my third car.
And now there’s this thing. Small and square-ish, it looks a little like – if a Mini Cooper was a lesbian.
It’s Malaysian, I think. Word has now come back from the garage. The leak is too small to fix. They’ve changed my brake pads. Everything else is fine. I love this car.