BLOG WITH SIMON: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

I had an explosive interaction with a car-cleaning company the other day. Literally explosive.

As part of the annual rego dance, my LPG-powered vehicle required an engine degrease. So I took it to a local car cleaning joint and the boys jet-blasted my donk.

For some reason, my vehicle didn’t kick over when they finished, probably because the ignition was damp.

So the boys pumped the accelerator.

As my mechanic later explained, this deposited a catastrophic amount of LPG into the muffler.

When the electrics dried out enough to spark, we got the kind of roadside detonation you read about in places like Baghdad, Kandahar and now Newcastle.

Funny, I’d just been thinking everything was going my way with rego this year. Kaboom boom.

Even more amusing was the reaction from the staff. They seemed unnervingly distant after the incident. Possibly a near death reaction.

More likely a culpability reflex in relation to the vehicle that just blew up. My vehicle.

When I asked them what happened, they offered me an encouraging ‘‘what?’’, as if nothing had happened. And maybe nothing had.

Maybe the concussion blast that had everyone on the lot bleeding from the ears was all in my imagination. Maybe they couldn’t hear me because their ear drums were perforated.

Or maybe, like me, they realised happy times were no longer at hand in the car cleaning business.

When they pushed rather than drove my car over to the side of the compound, I knew it was option three.

They either couldn’t start my vehicle or didn’t have the guts. Both negative scenarios.

It turned out to be option two, because they offered me the honour, while they took cover.

It was with mixed emotions – terror and umbrage mainly – that I turned it over, not sure if I was about to be engulfed in a fireball.

The car started but it sounded distinctly different.

Not that the car cleaners could notice. Nope, these guys who by the looks of it had devoted a large slice of their lives to savouring donks, couldn’t hear the ‘‘thwocka thwocka thwocka’’. Amazing.

It was only when the mangled remains of my exhaust system were pointed out that they conceded there might be a slight change in tone.

Time to take it to the next level – where’s the boss?

Enter a Fagan-like character, possibly less charitable, who introduced himself with a wince.

Didn’t we click! His first move was to poke his non-liability policy in my face and stare me out.

With that I went beyond click, I snapped.

Into robust discussion about consumer affairs, contract law and the parlous state of human nature.

He knew I was upset, he said, but put myself in his position. I’d come on to his lot with a perfectly good car marked with LPG stickers as required by the law, and he’d blown it up. The thought he’d have to pay compensation was obviously crippling for him, emotionally.

So I comforted him with words to that effect that if I was ever in his position, running a little car detailing business and attempting to stonewall disgruntled customers, shoot me. After more pleasantries, and a report from my mechanic, he wrote a cheque and I moved on as fast as my bruised vehicle would allow.

I got my pink slip eventually, after the red mist passed.

Have you ever had such vehicle problems?

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