Mechanical fear factor (and the road to recovery)

Saturday, 17 September 2011

I faced one of my greatest fears this week. I took my vehicle for its Warrant of Fitness. That’s when they test to see whether you’re fit to be out in public, or something like that.

It is, I admit, a ridiculous fear. I mean you either pass or you fail. You are deemed to be fit or you are not. As far as tests go, it’s no big deal. It’s not like you actually have to do anything (at least initially) and it’s a cut-and-dried experience – you know at all times exactly where you are at.

There’s no “Madam, I’m informing you that you are simply average” and they don’t even scowl or tut-tut-tut you particularly if you fail. Instead, you get a decisive list of the competencies you still need to fulfil and the chance to try again inexhaustively until you do.

Nonetheless, it’s right up there on the fear factor scale for me. It harks back, I think, to growing up dirt poor with nothing but hand me downs to wear and watery cabbage soup to sustain oneself upon (that last part’s not actually true, but it’s a fairly accurate portrayal of my mother’s cooking).

The problem is, I’ve never had a flash car so whenever someone uses the phrase “vehicle repairs”, my head immediately fills with big red dollar signs and my gut with the ocean panic of a vomiting oil slick.

I let my WOF slide for over 6 months last time. It took a Policeman pasting a bright green sticker on my forehead windscreen and a $600 fine to even get me to the warrant station to attempt the test. It turned out I needed only exceedingly minor mechanical attention. The time before that, a visiting male friend took it to the warrant station for me because he noticed it had expired when he borrowed it. It flew right through, no problems.

So this morning – just a month overdue – in one of my prettiest, most colourful dresses (Dutch courage) I swan into the crowded warrant station office with my $5 discount voucher grasped tightly in my hand. I announce to the elderly lady behind the counter as confidently as I can, “A warrant please. Oh and I’m a little behind in my diesel road user charges.”

Tap-tap-tap into her computer and, as I knew full well was going to happen, her little eyes grow to the size of hubcaps and she bites her lip a little bit.

WARRANT LADY: [nervously] “Errrr, well 20,000kms will get you up to your current odometer reading” and totters off a price in the range of a thousand bucks.

YOURS TRULY: [matter of fact] “No worries, I was expecting that. You better add another few thousand kms on, it will be a good feeling to be legal again.”

WARRANT LADY: [gushes] “Oh I know. Last week I went out in my car to the shops for half an hour without my licence in my purse. I felt so guilty all the while until I got home.”

YOURS TRULY: [most pleasant smile] “I know exactly what you mean.”

Proceeding to sit in the waiting room, I try not to terrorise myself about what the testing man with his little clipboard will have to say. And... it’s good news. Just a small earth wire adjustment required on one headlight. It will give me a good excuse to see my wonderful and extremely cost-effective mechanic who sometimes even gives me a flagon of his most delicious homebrew beer for my continued loyalty.

Feeling even more confident and happy than before, I turn the ignition on my vehicular, for once not even worrying that someone behind me might be dying from asphyxiation, and depart overjoyed midst my plumes of exhaust smoke.