And now I’m delighted to share with you the startling conclusion to the Baby Blue trilogy penned by my esteemed colleague and founder of the blog Sweettenorbull. Please brace yourselves for a wrenching read (but spare the poor author and don’t throw another wrench in the gears), which should help you appreciate the indomitability of the human spirit, if not the automotive one.
I’d like to share with you my daily ritual. It’s not a religious ritual, though it’s vaguely spiritual if you class despair a spiritual phenomenon. It certainly isn’t one of those ‘Start Your Day like a Winner’ tips that you get in those ‘Ten Secrets of Successful People’ type publications.
Bad luck if you Googled these phrases and ended up here by mistake – I tagged them just to spite you.
Anyway, here’s the ritual. I get in my car, turn the ignition and then listen carefully to the sound the engine makes. If it makes the usual ‘tektektek-Vrrrrrrrr’ sound, followed by an uppy-downy engine noise (sorry if this is getting a bit technical), then the engine light stays off and I have to wait about ten minutes or so until the engine settles and I can set off. If I rush off without waiting then the engine will throw a wobbly the first time I go over 25mph, and I have to stop the car and start it again – not ideal if I’m on a main road. Sometimes the engine will throw a wobbly the moment I first turn the ignition, making a slightly distressing ‘vrooooOOOOOOM’ sound and the engine light will come on. It’s actually better if this happens because the car rarely throws a wobbly twice in one day, though I still have to wait ten minutes for the car to compose itself before I can go anywhere.
Oh, and if there happen to be any mechanics reading this who’d like to offer me their advice and services – screw you! I’ve handed over enough money to people of your ilk to not fix this problem, thank you. Double screws to the mechanic who disappeared after not fixing this problem and left his wife to hand over the bill, and charged me an exorbitant additional thirty pounds plus VAT – plus VAT! – for fixing the left-hand screen washer. I would have paid in cash.
But I’m not blaming mechanics for this situation (this is a narrative conceit, mechanics: I am blaming you). Those of you following the Baby Blue saga here on Harmonioustew will know that this is all the doing of a vengeful, bereaved pheasant whose spouse didn’t follow her green-cross code. Or possibly, given the cultural norms that I sought to live up to in buying the car, it’s all down to Margaret Thatcher, though one shouldn’t speak ill of the dead.
Anyway, so goes my ritual. Between turning the ignition and setting off I sit waiting in my car in a state of – I don’t want to exaggerate here – abject humiliation and spiritual degradation.
The high school girl from down the road will walk past and shoot me a glance. Not a respectful glance, mind. No – her generation has been taught bad things, very bad things, about men who loiter in parked cars – who loiter in parked cars when schoolgirls are walking past! Such men, she will have garnered from tabloid news stories and school assemblies, are invariably dirty twisted perverts. She probably looks over her shoulder when she’s a bit down the road to check that I’m not following her. Hey! I’m not!
Next there are the curtain-twitchers over the road in the local authority bungalows. Such people worked hard all their lives before retiring into state-sponsored nosiness. It saddens them to see the waste and dissolution of younger generations:
“What’s he doing just sitting there?”
“Is he still there?”
“Yes. I mean, why does he just sit there?
“Something wrong with his car, probably.”
“Well he should get it fixed. It’s idleness if you ask me.”
“He doesn’t take care of it, that’s the problem.”
“I’ve never once seen him wash it – not once!”
“It’s a state, all right. We worked hard all our lives.”
Et cetera, et cetera…
One by one, my working-age neighbours will get in their cars, turn the ignition and blithely drive off, while I listen to the sound of my engine and try to avoid their terrible looks. The French Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau believed self-esteem had two components: amour de soi is that sense of self-worth independent of what others think of you, or what you think they think, while amour propre is the esteem that is contingent on others’ regard. Cheerful sociopath that he was, Rousseau saw the former as the more authentic feeling, but some of us are more sensitive to the frowns of our neighbours. As I sit in the car on the road outside my house each day, my amour-de-soi, buried deep in the cavern of my soul, is holding up fine, but my amour propre is in shreds. If only I had a driveway.
Do you see what’s happening here? If Baby Blue gives up the ghost, I’m getting the bus again. I’m barely clinging on to my membership of the ‘not a loser’ club; in fact, for ten or fifteen minutes each day, my membership is suspended pending successful engine transmission. And yet daily this veil of anomie lifts, the engine – if not purrs – chuckles nicely, the revs gauge settles and I drive into the clear blue yonder in my petite-bourgeois bubble…
(Hi, this is Stew again. Sad that mortality afflicts even our vehicular companions. My apologies to readers put off by the unorthodox spacing; my computer’s being a douche bag. Also, for fans of the Onion, I’ll be posting a more approving piece in a day or two; I decided to keep the encyclopedia and, despite misgivings expressed in the last post, have found that the folks at the Onion have redeemed themselves in my eyes by being so goddamned knowledgeable. As, of course, is Mr. Sweettenorbull.)