Taken for a Mug
So Michael Shumacher zooms into the pit stop in the final laps of the last Formula One Grand Prix race of the season. He's expecting a super fast 7 second wheel change, engine tune-up and refueling. The pit stop is empty though, except a shabby North London car mechanic who strolls up to the car. He kicks Michael's tyres and with a sharp intake of breath through a fading roll-up cigarette mutters the ominous lines, "Earliest I can get it back to you is Friday, Mr Shoemaker. And it's not gonna be cheap - even if I can get the parts."
I bought a car last October and it's been a constant drain of cash ever since. I bought it from my boss and it turns out I paid almost twice what it was worth. Fume. Adding to that not slight overpayment has been the cost of the parking permit to park it outside my own front door, the insurance (is it me or has insurance good through the roof?), road tax and the fact that the radiator blew up a week after I bought it and needed a £700 repair job. Grrr.
Well the 12,000 service was due a few weeks ago and the MOT too so with thoughts of killing two birds with one stone flittered round my mind I booked it into our local (when I say local I really mean 5 miles away) Renault garage to get it checked out and any minor repairs done. For it is a Renault. Had I not mentioned that? An estate, in fact. A lovely big Renault Estate. French, you know. And you'd be surprised now much an English Renault dealer blames everything on the fact that the car that I own is French. But I that another story.
So I turn up at the garage, or rather Mark does, as I hate garages and the low-lifes that inhabit them, and there's lots of sucking of teeth and shaking of heads as a mechanic kicks the tyres (why do they do that?) and stares at the engine. Quite how he got the bonnet open at all is quite beyond me as neither Mark nor I could ever open it. I'd even made a special point of saying to them on the phone earlier in the day, "whatever else you have to do please fix the bonnet so I can open it". The mechanic now smiled as Mark as he repeated this request and simply answered, "Earliest I can get it back to you is Friday, Mr McGuire. And it's not gonna be cheap - even if I can get the parts." Christ.
We hear nothing for a week. The days drag on but suddenly the calls started coming in from the garage. The car's failed it's MOT. It needs a new this, a new that, it's amazing it ever made it to the garage in the first place etc etc. The bombshell finally hit last week when an itemised parts and labour list arrived on my fax machine at work saying the work would come to a smidgeon shy of £1500. Fuck. That would mean in total we'd have spent nearly three times the value of the car since we got it. I bit the pillow, the bullet and my bank manager and agreed that the work be completed. What else could I do? The car was in bits on their garage floor.
Yesterday the call came through from this we-saw-you-coming garage that our car was finally ready for collect and how would I be paying, Mr Green? I resisted the temptation of saying, 'reluctantly', 'in blood' or 'through the nose' and asked if a credit card would do. "Any way but cash, Mr Green", was the reply. I didn't pursue that one.
I left work early and legged it up to north North London expecting my shiny fully-working car to be all ready and waiting for me. And it was. Phew. I paid the bill without a word and wished a fond goodbye (and hope I never see you again) to the receptionist and multitude of mechanics all getting ready to go home on the dot on 6pm.
I started the car and drove a few yards before stopping. I wonder. I wonder if the bonnet release works OK. I tried it. It didn't. GRRRR! I swept back into the showroom of the garage and spat through gritted teeth (which isn't easy, you should try it), "the bonnet doesn't open. It was the one I specifically asked you to fix". "Ted? Ted? Will you show Mr Green how to open his bonnet, please." Patronising cow. Sure enough 'Ted' couldn't open it either. Hah!. See! So I stomped off home with a promise of, "We'll have it fixed by tomorrow" in my ears.
They just called. They say it's ready. Good. It'd better be.