I’m not one to succumb to driver privilege. For example, a co-worker recently began a discussion with the phrase: “The problem with having a car is that, although they’re basically completely necessary, they..;” and while the decorum of the situation forbade me from jumping in to tell him that if I were enumerating the problems with cars, none of them would begin like that; I did at least tune him out for the rest of our car journey together.
But I have got into the habit of assuming that our lovely, eighteen-year-old VW Golf, gifted to us by friends, will always start at the drop of a pedal, the turn of a key, the flick of a switch, the click of a mouse, it’s just a click away, simply log on to… where was I? Oh, yes: like me, our poor car is showing its age. Last time we had to start it with some sense of urgency and necessity – at the start of a day to be spent carrying around my own weight of technical gear to the mini-conference I occasionally run – it failed to do so, and we had to get a jump-start.
To be entirely fair to the old girl, she had been on the driveway for nearly two months with no attention, and her electrics aren’t always at their best. I suppose a small current drain did for the aged and undercharged battery: regular Beds readers, especially those taking notes, will remember this same battery being fitted with jubilee clips nearly five years ago to the day. As predicted at the time, we did indeed have hundreds, and ultimately thousands, of miles of driving ahead of us.
This evening I spent about half an hour undoing a single bolt in order to remove a single clasp, in order to remove what I think might be a battery on its way out. Not only had the bolt rusted, but it had bent, meaning its thread was doubly jammed against the body of the car as I tried to turn it out. It’s not clear which I applied more to the whole shebang: sweat – literally pouring off me, in this weird early summer we’re having – or WD40.
In the end it came loose with a noise so loud it shocked the birds from the trees and left me, temporarily, deaf. It’s the sort of sound car crushers make as they get towards the bitter end. But now: success! I have a bolt, a clasp, and a dangerously adrift battery, all separated. I have left the first two on the driver’s seat, in the hope that I don’t leave the car untouched for enough weeks that I entirely forget that our battery is held in place only by a flat shelf and two electric cables. But then that’s the problem with having a car, isn’t it?