The insurance woman was trying not to laugh. Yes, that’s right, two cars damaged. Yes, that’s right, both ours. Yes, one hit the other. In our driveway. Snigger snigger.
The only surprise here is that it wasn’t my fault. I must be careful what I say, because when truth be told, the Treasurer did have a role in the incident. In fairness, she was in a hurry. And tired. And the cars were parked too close together. (Anything else you want me to say dear?)
We have a proud family tradition of having car problems. Unlike others, who treat their motors like third children, I am unable to bond with vehicles. And they hate me right back.
My first car was special. It had been Dad’s. A Holden sedan. I don’t know the make or model, but it was old and olive-green. My father taught me to drive it down the lane that ran behind our house. You could do things like that back then.
I drove to school in my final year. Very cool. At lunchtime, I would nip down to the TAB and get a double on. Even cooler. Does that still happen? Mental note – don’t let the girls read this.
But the Holden had one fatal flaw. The petrol gauge didn’t work. Dad somehow knew exactly how much fuel he had on board, and when he needed to re-fill. Like his carpentry skills, this was something he failed to pass down to his eldest son.
I would run out of petrol constantly. Perhaps it was something to do with being unwilling to pay. Given I usually had no money. All around town, the Holden could be found, sitting on empty. And me relying on mates to get me moving.
The final straw came one Friday evening. Now a working man, I decided I should be rewarded for my efforts with a few cool drinks. Not far from my local, that familiar spluttering sound. Then nothing. An empty tank yet again. I glided gracefully into the kerb.
There are decisions one makes through life that in hindsight, can be considered rash. This was one. I got out of that wonderful old car, strolled to the rear, and kicked a tyre. And then kicked it again. Remember that scene in Fawlty Towers when Basil thrashes his troublesome machine with a tree branch? You get the picture.
I marched to the pub, gulped a drink, grabbed the house phone, and called my brother. If you can find taxi fare, and a petrol can, you can have a car. It’s parked not far away. And we shall never speak of it again.
My next car, bought entirely on hire purchase, was a Toyota Celica. Two door, five speed, baby poo brown. Sadly, car and driver were entirely mismatched. It was smooth and classic. I wasn’t.
Things went well enough, until I lost the key. Of course I only had one. It fell out of my pocket on a train coming home from a bucks night in Newcastle.
As luck would have it, my mate Don the Smash Repairer was with me. He had a cheap and sensible solution. Or so it seemed at that late hour. Borrowing tools from the pub (yes, I had my own parking spot), he removed the door lock and ignition bit. I now started my Celica with a screwdriver, which sat under the front seat.
There was only one problem. The Celica had a locking petrol cap. I didn’t realise that, until I went to fill up some days later. No key. So, with my ignition screwdriver, the boys and I ripped off the petrol cap. Second problem solved!
I am shaking my head at this now, but I drove around for some considerable time, with a dish rag for a petrol cap. This was the source of some hilarity among my mates. Until it rained.
Apparently, rainwater does not improve a car’s performance. Especially when it’s added to fuel. Once again, I had a car that kept conking out. At every traffic sign and red light. More hilarity.
Here I made another rash decision. Heading home after the early shift at work, the engine cut out at a red light. Location? To my right, Gosford racecourse. And a car yard to my left. In a scene straight out of any number of ads, I pushed that mongrel car straight into Grawill Motors. Dollar signs flashed as a team of salesmen fought to get to me first.
Working on hire purchase yet again, with nothing to my name, I bought another one. To celebrate, I ventured across the road, and parked at the races. And being so used to my screwdriver routine, I closed the door behind me. With my new key locked inside.
I should stop now. You’re probably bored and I’m depressed. To wrap up, that car, when I finally unlocked it, served me well, until it was swamped by tidal waters in Cairns. The car after that was wrecked, after being stolen and used in a ram raid in Townsville. And so on.
My point here, is that there are worse things in life than a little bump in the driveway. Of course, I’m going to be without a vehicle for a while. Does anyone have a spare I can borrow?