Sunday, 24 November 2013

Your Car Has Broken Down? Then You Are An Idiot Who Must Be Lectured By Me

There are certain topics that British men, and indeed probably men across Europe and even further afield will not let anyone gainsay them on.  Football is one of them.  Immigration issues is another as is the treatment of convicted criminals.  Do-it-yourself is another topic.  These are things that the bulk of men will not be permitted to contradict them on, often even when there is clear evidence to the contrary.  The last resort is 'that doesn't sound right', 'that can't be right', and 'you must have heard it wrong'.  It is the equivalent of the 'does not compute' from a robot.  A man's dignity is so dependent on him being right in these issues that he cannot mentally cope with any challenges to this perception. Perhaps the largest area for such a mindset is in terms of cars and driving. 

The comedian Harry Enfield portrayed a character who would interrupt conversations in pubs with 'you don't want to do it like that' and would totally dismiss the individual's approach and lecture them on the correct way to do it.  He could not accept that anyone could trump his view.  Another set of characters in a similar vein were the Self-Righteous Brothers portrayed again by Enfield this time in collaboration with comedian Paul Whitehouse.  They tended to take particular celebrities and praise their attributes before drawing a particular line over which they would not let them cross.  These characters were played for comedy, but they are very well observed. As a blogger I get indignant and tell people what to think but the advantage of a blog is one click and you are away from it.  I am not pestering you any longer than you wish.  Unfortunately there are far too many people like this in Britain today who do it to your face and they make any troubles you face harder to deal with.

As I mentioned, the biggest focus for such intrusive souls is connected to cars.  I have had a lot of bad luck with cars, two in a row completely died, though fortunately I had not paid much for them.  In one case I was conned by people who appeared to be friends but clearly more wanted to offload a poor vehicle than they wanted to remain my friends.  I tend not to publicise these problems as immediately it reduces my standing in the eyes of any British man I meet.  They, of course, have perfect knowledge which means they are never conned and always get the best prices.  For them it is simple to achieve this, so I must be a real idiot not to be able to do so.

My last car was 15-year old Mitsubishi people carrier which had done 200,000 Km (125,000 miles).  It was still running but despite all the tweaking and services, it kept on losing revs at slow speeds, making it difficult to keep from stalling in the stop-start traffic that I now drive through.  I thought it had had a good run so started looking for a replacement before it died completely.  I lighted on a Kia people carrier, 8 years old and having done 115,000 Km (71,000 miles) for £3,500, about £1000 more than I could afford.  However, it was in good condition and was large enough to accommodate stock for the business I sometimes help out.  It has a diesel engine which these days means that it is less economical than it would have been about 15-20 years ago.  It has a fuel tank which is 40% larger than the Mitsubishi but the distance per litre is about 15% less than the Mitsubishi.  Apparently the advantage of diesel engines is only apparently if you cover more than 25,000 Km per year and I only do half that.  Having run for two weeks without problem, it suddenly would not start.

Since leaving London in December for a better job, having struggled to find anyone who would rent me a room in a shared house in a city for less than £650 per month, I ended up renting part of a very large house which unfortunately is in rural West Midlands. Before you write in to say that you can rent cheaper rooms, try doing it when you are a man, over 30 and working in my industry, all of these things put off potential landlords/ladies.  I have made another mistake about diesel cars.  Yes, once I saw that I might buy a diesel car, I should have run off and read everything I could about them, but when you are at the dealership you do not have such time and with this tendency for all car dealers to treat you like an imbecile if you make one mistake about the car you are looking at, you do not ask questions.  The woman accompanying me asked about the jack, something largely redundant in cars these days and it led to the dealer simply laughing out loud at here.  They do not care and you have no choice, a private seller would be even harsher.  It is all about them loving the boost to their insecure egos that such humiliation brings.  The mistake I made is that diesel engines start poorly in cold weather.  This seems ridiculous given that tractors, lorries and I imagine snowploughs use diesel engines.  However, it is to do with the fact that it runs on compressing the fuel until it ignites, rather than a spark from a spark plug igniting it.  I found I actually remembered quite a bit about diesel engines from my O Level Physics classes.  Thus, living in a rural area, on top of a hill, with few houses around put me into not an ideal position to start the car.

The day came almost two weeks ago now when it would not start.  I waited until the day warmed a little, then called Green Flag and still it would not start.  The size of it meant a larger tow truck was needed and this dragged it to the nearest mechanics I could find who had a space, the sixth I had telephoned as all the others were busy, being the time of year.  They had it for three days and could not work out what the problem was.  There seemed to be a range of problems, the heater which warms the fuel before it enters the compression process had loose wires and the battery needed replacing.  One problem with the car is almost everything in the engine is invisible, hidden below large metal boxes, a characteristic of a Kia, I have found I do not like.  It also turned out that one of the tyres was below the legal limit despite the car apparently passing its MOT just a fortnight earlier.  I had noticed this due to skidding on the road and was happy to have it replaced.  The mechanics managed to get the car running long enough to get it back to where I am living, 6.5 Km away where it proceeded to die once more.  I then discovered that the battery in the key fob was run down.  Having walked back 9.5 Km to a branch of Asda which had sold out of just that sort of battery and a further 3 Km to a pound shop that had them at half the price of Asda and got a taxi at £10 back.  I managed to start the car.  It was apparent the low battery simply kept triggering the immobiliser.  However, by now I was blocked in by the other lodger's car and satisfied that I had started it four times thought I would start again the next morning.  Of course then it would not work.  I have now had to wait seven days for the Kia specialists 25 Km away to fit me in and have to get it towed there once more.

In the meantime I have clearly been on to the people who sold me the car.  Given that they have treated me so poorly I will do something I do not often do and tell you that they are BMC Autonation based in Bournemouth in Dorset.  They are not huge but have a number of locations around the town.  They seemed to be reliable and the car came with a 12-month warranty on parts - an important qualification.  I telephoned them about the fact that they had sold me a car that had stopped working within two weeks of me buying it from them and that despite the MOT certificate had a tyre below the legal limit in terms of tread.  They simply denied vigorously that it had anything to do with them.  I had driven the car off the forecourt (though not very far given how little diesel there was in the tank) and as far as they were concerned that ended their responsibility for the car.  I guess I should have realised from the lack of diesel that much more would need replenishing from the key fob battery to the car battery to the tyres.  Basically the car was not fit to drive and I am sure thousands of men would shout at me for my inability to simply smell that these things were wrong with the car the moment I looked at it.  That has been the attitude of many men and indeed a woman, since I bought it.

For £3500 I have been left with a car which cannot move after two weeks with problems that after 3 days, an experienced mechanic could not resolve.  Being in a rural area with buses stopping in the village every 80 minutes during the rush hours, when they turn up, has meant great difficulty getting to work.  It costs £3.30 to cover the first 6 Km and then £1.70 for the next 16 Km.  The second stage is from town to town so is faster and far more regular.  A return journey costs exactly £10 or £50 per week, 20% more than the diesel I was having to buy for the journey.  If the bus does not come then it is £10 for the taxi over the first 6 Km, each way.  So not only have I wasted thousands of pounds on a car I am now paying even more for the privilege of not having a car.  If this goes on the choice is to move into the town and see my rent rise from £475 per month for a room to £650.  Of course taxi drivers will swear that you can rent a 2-bedroomed flat for that much, but it actually turns out to be impossible to find any of these places they keep telling you that you are an idiot not to be renting.

I guess this takes me to the root of the problem.  Men largely have an unshakeable perception of the world.  They will not be challenged in that viewpoint.  To be challenged somehow twists their brains so much that it is painful.  Thus, they keep pumping out the same perceptions no matter how much someone contests them.  Their own explanation for the difference between their world view and what the person is saying is that that person is an idiot, no matter how many admirable traits or how much knowledge they have demonstrated up to that point.  Throughout this car saga I have had to put up with such lecturing, very difficult as a lot of it has come from my landlord and whilst I want him to stop banging on about this stuff I do not want to upset him so he feels that I am too much of a pain and chucks me out.  Of course, when the car first broke down the landlord insisted that he got in and tried to start it, he did this repeatedly with no more success than I had had.  The other male lodger similarly insisted that he must try and did exactly the same as myself and the landlord had done with exactly the same result.  By now the engine was flooded and the battery run down anyway.  However, there was nothing that could be done to stop them turning the engine over and over again.  The landlady was determined to do the same and was only prevented by me taking the dying battery out of the spare key fob.

The landlord then insisted that being a diesel engine it must need the glow bulbs replaced.  These were the old method of warming diesel before it was compressed.  He is still insisting on this even though I have told him at least ten times that the car has no glow bulbs but a more up-to-date, though possibly less reliable, heater system.  Even when the car came back from the mechanics he has continued to say it simply needs the glow bulbs replaced.  This shows the strength of his world view, that he believes even professional mechanics who had the car for three days would not have replaced the glow bulbs if that was all that was wrong.  My refusal to accept that this reason is the correct one is now angering him.  However, there is nothing I can do about it.  Even if I get the Haines manual and show him the lack of glow bulbs it will simply stoke his anger, he would rather be angry and wrong than be corrected and so feel humiliated in this subject matter which clearly shapes a large chunk of his masculinity.  The car has been sitting passive outside the house while awaiting the tow to the Kia dealers.  I have tried to start it on the off chance but have simply ended up running the battery down again.  Yet, even today the landlord suggested I try some more and went on about if I just got new glow bulbs it would be fine.  His knowledge is clearly greater than that of the manufacturers.

Having proved myself very poor at buying cars, he has now insisted that if I get another one, which seems quite feasibly will have to be the case, he must accompany me.  He apparently can sniff out faulty cars even when they work perfectly on the test drive (and as you can imagine given my past experience I tried absolutely everything in the car to see if it worked or not before I bought it).  He along with a number of colleagues from my job have this ability and all want to come along next time, because clearly I am incapable of buying a car.  I will need quite a large vehicle to fit them all in.  Of course, they will spend the time correcting each other and pointing out how not only I am wrong, but their fellow 'advisors' are too.

Being lectured repeatedly as a man of 46 is hard.  Being told that you are an idiot unsuited to drive, is humiliating.  Having people insist that a part which does not exist is faulty, is hard to tackle politely.  This is on top of the missed trips and visits to friends and the burden on my wallet to cope with.  I feel once more as I did when living with my parents last year.  All my achievements, the fact that I have survived all the bullying and losses without going mad are nothing simply because my car has broken down.

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