Another day

Well, I don’t usually diarise, but a combination of a lack of ideas and a more than, uh, ‘interesting’ drive in has lead me to.

Today… well, a week ago I was trying to pull a caravan out of a forest. I was worried my clutch was slipping as my little car tried to pull the little caravan up the not so little (and damp and slippery) hill. I asked my helper, who was watching from outside the car, what
was going on, and they reassured me the tyres were slipping, so I figured we’d keep trying. Turns out it was the clutch, as the smell of burning friction material soon told me. Add that to the fact that my car needed a major service including a new timing belt and I thought I might as well book it in for a service.

Back to today. Fog. I have a 50km drive to the mechanics’, partly over gravel roads, and the car cannot climb a hill in any gear higher than third (of 5) or the tachometer races ahead of the speedometer and the engine makes a distressed ‘brumming’ sound like a kid with a
Matchbox car. The clutch is slipping, and badly. I spend an hour touching the throttle and choosing gears very carefully, trying to keep the speedo and tacho moving in parallel. I pass an upside down cement truck that has caromed off the icy roads; then a lunatic overtakes me, though forward visibility is maybe 200m and he has to spend a good few seconds on the wrong side of the road in what is nearly a whiteout. I mean, I can’t even get up to the speed limit, but I can get up to what’s probably the maximum safe speed in the conditions. I pass a car that has driven into a creek, missing the bridge by a good 20 metres in the fog.

Half a dozen emergency vehicles go past in the opposite direction, heading for the cement truck. A fire truck appears almost from nowhere then vanishes again, its siren whooping. I have to climb a hill in a 100kph speed zone and I can’t get above 40, since if I put the foot down the clutch slips and the needle of the tacho flicks across into the red. I can smell the clutch, like your brakes smell at the bottom of a steep descent. I put on the warning lights and crawl up the hill, imagining another lunatic racing up behind me at a closing speed of 70kph in fog that does not let me see just how steep this hill is (though I know it well).

Then onto the highway, which is at least mostly flat or down hill. I creep the car into the mechanics’ yard, where it halts in a cloud of clutch smoke.

“Oh, it needs a clutch too,” he says when I bring in the keys.

“Yes,” I say, vibrating with relief.

“We won’t be able to get that done in one day. Will that be a problem?”

I think, I told you when I booked it in it needed timing belt and clutch, and
you didn’t tell me this then.

I say: “Well, we live an hour out of town, so someone will need to come and get me and they’ll need notice.”

He promises to ring me mid afternoon to confirm one way or the other. That will have to do. I make a note to ring him, since all mechanics, even the good ones, say they’ll give you a call, and none ever do.

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About Darren

I'm a scientist by training, based in Australia.

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