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Wednesday, 30 September 2009

brmm brmm

Phut. Came a noise and the car went dark, as the electrics went kaput. Suddenly bereft of any chance of aimless fiddling, the only things I wanted to do were play the radio, light a fag and fiddle with the electric mirrors. None of these fine pastimes were to be mine.

True loss, however, came in driving around. I no longer knew what time it was (lost Swatch), and, more importantly, I no longer knew where I was because Tom-Tom didn’t work. The fag lighter is used just for Tom-Tom (so don’t get your wig wet, father) and here I was, stranded wherever I was which, sadly, was Gloucester. Gloucester for those lucky enough not to know, is twinned in motoring spirit with Swindon (home of the mini-roundabout). It majors in proud provision of characterless dual carriageways and big scary roundabouts. The kind to have traffic lights on them so that you can’t slide round to the third exit; instead you have to do it in staggered jumps to reach the right lane each time. Really rather scary.

I made it to a Halfords, like the Jews to the promised land, thinking, like my idol the little red hen, that I would do fix it all by myself. Fool. Halfords got ready to laugh. They paved the way with signs saying they could fit bulbs and things. At a charge.
I strolled busily to the fuse section and stared, like the dog at a Latin primer at the stuff on offer. All so confusing. A book on fixing a Cortina circa 1983? no probs. A plethora of air fresheners in a range of designs? Be my guest. A fuse for a vaguely modern car? No way, sucker.

So I went to find a man. There were none; and then there were 2, demonstrating baffling teamwork with a roll of tape where none seemed needed. I smiled as if at two Teletubbies, and started my explanation.
“Can’t help you, ‘fraid,” one smirked, “We’re work experience.” The ‘sorry’ came as an afterthought, delivered with a tone close to mirth. Pissed off customer? Job well done. The lad clutched his roll of tape importantly. My smile stiffened into something sickly and not entirely pleasant.

I found the desk.
Two lads were chatting by the till.
"Don’t let me interrupt you,” I said eventually, nice with a little ice. I launched back into my explanation.
“Oh we can’t help you,” one said.
“God forbid,” I said, “Silly me.” The boldness conferred upon a middle aged woman denied access to her Tom-Tom via a teeny tiny fuse and a bored jobsworth.
“I mean, we can. But we have to charge you.”
But of course.

So I strode from the shop in a WTF way, scuttled homewards, bowed to the inevitable, and called in on the dealership. DIY proving yet again to be a waste of bloody time.

The dealership has been taken over by a smarter car-breed since last time and accessing it off the, yup, dual carriageway called for lots of swearing, missed stabs at the slipway and dangerous u-turns. In I went to this vaulted glass palace with its marble floors and maple coffee tables, its playstations and spreads of magazines – Lexusland or MercCity or whatever it is – feeling scruffy and out of place. A sentiment possibly echoed by the Service Manager who bustled over swishily as if about to invite me to dance while at the same time doing his damnedest to steer me into a dark corner. I nearly curtsied.

“What seems to be the problem?” he purred.
I told him. I said that there was no ‘seemed’ about it, but that a fuse had blown and could I buy a new one, please.

He sashayed off to consult his screen, peering with due importance over half moon specs and tapping at the keyboard with a manicured mitt.
“Gavin?” he trilled. Gavin fetched Mike. They muttered.
Mike lent Shakespearean sorrow to the proceedings. He knew his place and maybe didn’t mingle much with such as the Service Manager. He bent mournfully over an oily rag which he fed from hand to hand and said that it would be an hour before they’d have a chance even to look at the car; only he didn’t call it a look, he called it Undertaking A Diagnostic Survey. Which would take at least an hour.

Dancing Service Manager let me hear all this and then said it again, since we all know that monkeys with rags don’t impart useful information to customers, even if they are plebs, only Service Managers do this.
“I don’t think it needs one of those,” I said, “it’s a fuse.”
“We’re not ruling a fuse out,” he said, glancing at Mike in an urgent, important, manly, way for corroboration, “But we’ll need to Undertake A ...”
“A Diagnostic Survey,” I finished.
“Yes,” he said.
“Which will take at least an hour?” I said.
“Yes,” they both said.
“So, we’re looking at how much?” I asked
“What’s it likely to cost?”
“Hard to say at this stage. It depends on the Diagnostic Survey, which is at least an hour and then … would you like a cup of coffee?”
“Forget it,” I said slightly tersely, springing into my WTF stride again and thrilling myself by managing the big glass doors without weeping or trapping my hand.

I vowed to get used to no Tom-Tom, no fiddling with mirrors, no clock, no CD, but it was hard going and the journey home was a long ten minutes.

I called in, on spec, at the local garage. It’s a bit of a mess, with no work experience, no entrance hall, no tea and coffee, no magazines. But, lo, a man in a shirt and tie bounded out helpfully from the portacabin hut.

What strange set up was this? No being avoided, ignored, patronised or passed down the line. Weird.
“Let’s take a look,” he said. See! A look. All I wanted was a look.

I played hand maiden to his He-Man and we fiddled with the glove compartment and located the fuse box hidden high above it, and he prised it out and stared it and then said, “Give me a minute.”
Then he ran back to me, like a chap in an advert and inserted the fuse and smiled and said, “Start her up then.”
So I did and all the lights and the mirrors and the clocks and the radio came beaming into life and I smiled the smile of the easily pleased and sighed a happy sigh.

“Thank you so much!” I gushed.
He looked a little surprised at my pleasure.
“It’s been a long afternoon,” I said. “Let me know what I owe you?”
“For a fuse?” he said, puzzled. “Nothing at all.”


pinkfairygran said...

What's WTF mean?

Potty Mummy said...

Previous commenter; 'Where's the fuse'? Or perhaps not...

Expat mum said...

I would spread the word about him. Or perhaps not? He might get very popular, very busy and full of himself. Best keep it a secret.

Milla said...

er, it's, er, What The Fuck. Well, come on, I'd had enough.

muddyboots said...

l most certainly do NOT miss Gloucester or its road system. My Father said that before the place was re-developed it had a medieval city centre and then the docks, unrecognizable, back in the '70s you did NOT go there EVER.

ChrisH said...

Ah, how sweet and endearing that Pfg doesn't know what WTF means. Mind you, I don't think Tom does either. Anyway, I digress, Wonderful, wonderful post and so cheering too (once you've got past all the bad guys) - I was going to suggest getting the part off the internet, as we have before thus enabling us to afford to eat again, but your new friend at the garage sounds magnificent.

sea-blue-sky & abstracts said...

Having got to the end of your post, my faith in human nature is restored. I realised instantly what WTF stands for, what does that make me?!! BFN (Bye for now). Lesley x

Maddie Grigg said...

WTF? You were safe, in Gloucester? Not safe from total boredom, that's for sure.
Your garage guy sounds a very nice man. I hope you will reward him accordingly. x

Elizabethd said...

Sigh...I didnt know either, does that make me sweet and quaint? Or just......old.

What a very nice garage man you finally found. Maybe you should send a copy of your post to Halfords and the Diagnostic survey place? Just for information, of course.

Frances said...

Milla, I do love happy endings! They do seem to be getting pretty rare.

So... are you going to bake that man with a fuse a cake. Go on!

It truly is aggravating to think of all the folks who haven't got a clue about much these days. I come across them just about every day, and just want to rejoice when finally, finally, someone who knows something and also wants to do something with that knowlege ... just does it!

(By the way, your writing is fab.)


Edward said...

WTF = What the fuse? Love it. Great post, by the way, as usual. Should definitely send this to Top Gear or something on spec.

LittleBrownDog said...

Oh, what a lovely man - bet you felt like kissing him. Fortunately, our part of the word is well served with the sort of man who will change a bulb or do a bit of twiddling under the bonnet for nothing - and there are no dual carriageways for miles. We do however have a Halfords, though, where invisible service managers and pairs of useless work-experience boys wielding tape come as standard.

Completely brilliant and glorious writing, as ever, Milla. And concur with Rottie's idea of sending it off on spec. You should certainly have a wider and more fee-paying audience.

Alice said...

Hilarious ... provided me with a nice giggle whilst supping my morning coffee ;-)

Carol said...

I'm afraid I knew what WTF stood for too but I loved Potty Mummy's suggestion :-)

Restores faith in mankind when someone does something like that for you...shows not everyone is out to make a fast buck at your expense!!

Long live lovely garage men

C x

The Green Stone Woman said...

An honest to goodness garage man is the best to be had. They know about cars. Thank goodness you had enough sense to go to one. Mum's the word about this one. Keep it a secret, only to be shared with very special friends and relatives.

Milla said...

thanks all.
Feel have to bustle in and say that MercCity or whatever it was was Cheltenham, and the dear garage man in a village nearby. Gloucester had been left behind by now!

Preseli Mags said...

I met Gloucester's roundabouts last summer. A truly terrifying experience. Especially the one which can't make up its mind whether it's a roundabout or an industrial estate. We got so lost that refuelling was necessary, if only so we could drive somewhere (anywhere!) to finalise the divorce! WTF indeed.
I'm glad you decided to GALMI in the end. Much better than spotty youths in Halfords or snotty idiots in MercPalace.

Friko said...

You really faffed about with all those poncey shops when you have a local garage thingy with a man in it? Bah!

Milla said...

I was stranded, love, stranded. Far-ish (well, 25 mins, but without Tom-Tom that counts as stranded) from home. The dropping off places were to aid me back. It was only once near to dear home that life slotted into place once more!

Tattie Weasle said...

OOOHHHH TOM TOM - doan fink we av 'em in Suffolk there again we doan get 'em scary roundaboutations eether. Get them mini ones mind oh an 'alfords. Load of ole FYM they be!
Great post and Thank God for old fashioned service I say!

snailbeachshepherdess said...

Know exactly how you felt when after days of searching for reasonably priced lap top for uni was told by man in electronics shop -'yes we've got computers but basically they are crap - try Carphone Warehouse' so I did and we got just the baby. Thanks to man in posh electronics shop - p'raps he's got a relative in a garage further down the country.

Fennie said...

I can so empathise with what you must have been going through, having been there myself on many occasions. And beautifully told. Beautifully told!

her at home said...

Milla. Right a book.You are far more amusing than any of the crappy novels I have read of late.


I hope you write a book rather than right a book? Still, who am I to talk when I frequently insert 'hear' for 'here' in comment boxes!!

Anyhows, Love, this is fab - every experience I have also 'enjoyed' from Halfords Hell through the Ridiculous Rip-off Urban Posh Car Shrine to Glass, Marble, Crap Coffee and damp-palmed Superciliousness, and then on into the gentle arms of the Local Garage Bloke who makes no fuss and does it for nothing with a cheery smile.

Wonderfully described, as ever, Milla.

For the record, WTF foxed me for a mo - but on re-reading I was there in a flash!!

Fran Hill said...

You're funny. I love your use of similes - smart. Thanks for dropping by my blog. Come back soon.

Amanda said...


As Fran said. You are funny.

Sally's Chateau said...

How could he resist YOU ? an obvious damsel in distress, what a heartwarming story of old fashioned gallantry. Pass the box of tissues while I have a good sniff. A Daily Mail story if ever there was one !!

KittyB said...

I don't understand the need for monotone satnav when those sweet cartographers make such lovely maps. The problem I find with satnav is that the tiny person in the little box bangs on and on ad nauseam about turnings all the time and interrupts Radio4. Can't be doing with all that road-based droning. Can't they add another subject for diversion? Throw in an off-the-cuff remark about the weather or something?

You can't beat the men in the local garages of England. Gems, they are. Deserve medals for keeping our clapped out bangers on the road for mere pennies (or none at all in your case).

Welsh Girl said...

Heavenly post Milla. I have been there and now just how you felt. When I lived in London, I had a quote to service my car for EIGHT HUNDRED POUNDS. My car wasn't worth that. I nursed the car home to Wales and the boys came out of the back, whisked the charabanc into its gloomy depths and gave it back two hours later with everything done and a bill of £127.00 for the lot..... All hail and bow down before the real men of this world...

elizabethm said...

Fab fab post - I once went to merc city and fled screaming and now live where people do things for free and look surprised if you suggest payment. I agree with LBD, send it off to a car mag somewhere. Top Gear or something. Too good to keep to yourself and us!

Bluestocking Mum said...

I'm still laughing at PFG comment!

Great new meaning to wtf!
PS - Oh, and great blog btw

angel said...

When The popular comment layout is common, so it is easily recognized scanning to post a comment. If the comment section is in a different format, then I am going to spend more time trying to decipher what everything means.

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