Service with a grimace

We all have chores that we would rather not do, but pretty much top of my list is getting my car serviced.

I have no idea why this mundane and routine task, which only happens once a year, elicits such a negative response in me. I get my car serviced, then almost immediately start to dread the reminder arriving. My car is a Toyota, and relatively new, so I don’t know why I get so bent out of shape about dropping my car off in the morning, allowing a courtesy bus to take me to a station and picking it up at the end of my working day having used the train to get back to the bus again. It is really not that hard.

Perhaps what is hard is the pain of handing over a fistful of dollars while suspecting that what has happened in the interim has been limited to an apprentice having been given the task of checking and filling the windscreen wiper fluid tank, pumping the tyres up a bit and spraying some ‘new car smell’ around the interior.

I am sure that is not true, and the auto industry has gone a long way to dispel these ideas. In Australia, Toyota have introduced capped-price servicing, so you only ever pay a low flat rate fee. Except that does not apply to my car because I was able to buy it at a massive discount (I mean, really massive) so I pay full service price for the vehicle. This means I don’t go to Toyota for my service because I can get it done for half the cost elsewhere and that makes me feel sad, because I would like my car serviced by technicians who are trained on my model, especially nowadays when cars less and less mechanical and more and more technical.

It is even more difficult lately, as I can not walk for more than about five minutes without my knee becoming painful, and that means I am driving my dogs to where I walk them so I feel vulnerable without my car. Lately, though, I have become a little worried that the battery may be on the way out as the car has been ever so slightly slower in turning over when I start it lately (join the club, car I know how you feel).

My colleague, who lives in the same area as me, went back to the UK recently and before she left we made a pact that we would both get our cars serviced and give eachother a lift in and back to work on that day. There is a car servicing centre less than a mile down the road from my house and it absolutely does not open before 8 am. I know this because we were both there at 7.45 am today to drop her car off as part one of the pact. A small, sad group of us huddled in the cold outside the door – which was locked – and watched through the windows as the staff in the snug, warm office cheerfully tapped away on their keyboards, determined not to break and let us in one minute too early. One man, an older gentleman, stood with watery eyes and a box of tissues. He had obviously been here before.

At one point, one of the staff members in the office got out from behind the counter and walked across the floor in front of the door, but it was a false alarm, he was going somewhere else.

‘He didn’t even look up,’ my mate said.

‘Nope,’ I agreed, ‘probably part of the training. They have been taught not to make eye contact through the glass, in case we try to engage with them.’

An older woman came up being the group and pushed through.

‘Excuse me,’ she said, somewhat after the fact. She tried the door.

‘Oh!’ She said,’ it is locked.’

‘Yes,’ my mate replied,’ that is why we are all at standing here on the pavement.’

At 8 am on the dot, the door was opened and all six of us piled in. A few minutes later we were driving out and on our way.

I had decided to book my car in later when we came to pick up as everyone seemed a bit tense after the wait.

‘That woman,’ said my mate, ‘barged straight through to the counter. She nearly knocked that poor sod with the tissues flying.’

‘It is a dog-eat-dog business, alright.’ I agreed.

We left work early and came to pick her car up. This time the office was empty and the lads behind the counter were more than happy to make eye contact and have a chat. I booked my car in for next Wednesday when the while sorry scene will play out again and then it will be over for another year, or 40 000 kilometres, whichever is sooner.

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