A few weeks ago I had a small mishap in the car when a young man* decided he couldn’t wait for the traffic to pass before making his move and subsequently drove into the side of my car. No-one was hurt, there was minimal damage, but maximum hassle while we tried to find somewhere to pull over in the rush hour traffic on a High Street not intended for motor vehicles (probably struggled with horse-drawn carts back in the day, to be fair). The damage was enough to need a repair and today my little car was picked up and taken away to be sorted out. I was then picked up by a nice young man* who took me to the hire car office to pick up a replacement car for the interim, while mine is being fixed.
I have had hire cars/courtesy cars before when previous cars have needed servicing or repairs (through no fault of mine, I hasten to add – I have a VERY good track record with cars) and I have jumped in and driven off with no qualms or issues at all. We have changed our car fairly frequently and I have never had any issues driving the new one. I pride myself on being pretty unflappable when it comes to driving a new car. The only car I have refused to drive is K’s company car as it is quite posh and doesn’t have a manual handbrake. I don’t know why but the idea of pushing in a button and expecting it to hold the car in place just doesn’t work for me, and how to you find your biting point on your clutch on a hill. Oh no, I am not going there. Give me a good old handbrake that you can yank up into place and I am quite happy thank you.
So, imagine my abject horror when I was told that I would be driving off in a brand new C Class Mercedes. And not just any brand new C Class Mercedes – an automatic one to boot. Automatic! Bloody automatic. With no shift stick to change from Park, to Neutral, to Drive. No, just a stupid stalk on the steering wheel and yes, you guessed it, a silly little push button handbrake.
To say that I nearly bottled it and got the bus home (this is really saying something – I haven’t been in a bus in about 15 years and I was in High Town in Luton) is an understatement. I practically begged the young man* to drive me home where the bloody car could stay for the duration of the hire. He said that, sadly, he was not allowed. I asked if they could give me something else – a Corsa maybe or a Fiat Punto? Sadly not, madam, the insurance company insist we give you like for like. (I have a little tiny BMW – how is this monster “like for like?”). Faced with the reality, I am ashamed to say that I asked him to “at least reverse it out to the road for me?” In the space of ten minutes I had reduced myself to a gibbering, pathetic, should-be-ashamed-to-call-myself-a-woman woman. He seemed nervous handing over the “key” (not really a key just a thing that you push into a hole in the steering column) but not as nervous as I was trying to stop my legs from shaking enough to take it off the brake and try to pull away. Try is the right word, I had no idea how to take the stupid bloody handbrake thing off. When I had sussed it I then bunny-hopped the short distance to the junction with the main road that was bumper to bumper with traffic, much to the amusement of the group of young men* who were congregated at the corner of the road.
I somehow managed to get home (via the M1 to make life easier as I didn’t have to brake so often) and parked on the drive, where as far as I am concerned it can stay until it needs to go back. When I came in the front door my legs were like jelly and I had to have a hug from my girl to sort me out. My pride (and my confidence) has taken a serious knock and I am so cross with myself for letting something as insignificant as a car to make me feel this way. K thinks I need to drive it so that I can overcome the fear. He probably has a point but just not today, eh.
*young man. – the one that drove into my car on the High Street looked about 17 years old. He had spots and a barely broken-in voice. He didn’t want to give me his details which prompted me to ask “is it your car? Is it insured in your name or your mum’s?”. I know I was being patronising but he annoyed me with his belligerent attitude.
The one that picked me up to collect the hire car was not so young but certainly only in his early 20’s and so to me – someone who is on the literal cusp of middle age, as I am 45 tomorrow – he was a young man. He was rather lovely and chatty and was full of info on applying for the Police Force – somehow we had got on to the subject that this is what T wants to do as a career. He was typical of his generation, though, as he was blatantly using his mobile phone while driving me, albeit it while sitting in traffic. Not meaning to tar all millennials with the same brush but it does seem to be a failing of that age group (whatever generation you are from) – the feeling of being invincible and beyond reproach.
The ones that were standing at the corner of the road as I bunny-hopped my way into the traffic would have been terrifying had I been walking and had I not been too distracted by the numb feeling in my legs.
I know I sound old but, frankly, I am.