Having a breakdown….

chair_bw_0550My specialist subject is not “The Workings of the Internal Combustion Engine”. This became apparent when, after pushing all the knobs and turning all the keys marked “Start”, nothing happened save the creation of a telling noise that had heads in the car park turning in sympathy, but mainly in derision. Sitting inside a upholstered, metal box that has lost its only worthwhile quality, that of locomotion, is a signal moment. Whether the inanimate invalid is equipped with Xenon lights and triple boost go very fast stuff or with one broken headlight and a tiny lawn mower engine, it is rendered a piece of shit by not moving. Staring knowledgeably at the buttons and dials is the first move, followed by lifting the bonnet ( “hood” to you Transatlantic gangstas, while we effete sons of Albion stick with Little Bo Peep’s headgear) and staring at the meaningless conjunction of pipes, cylinders and wires that lies beneath this protective carapace. Praying, shouting and physically assaulting the pneumatically supported shitheap is another regularly chosen option in amateur, emergency vehicle repairs. Thank God we’ve been taught that there is a recovery position for humans, or the casualty list caused by amateur vehicle repairers turned first aider would be attritional.reading_waiting_0565

Mental breakdowns are more acceptable than those of a  mechanical nature in France. Mental breakdowns are to be expected, given the insanity of the prevailing bureaucracy, but mechanical breakdowns are taken as a direct insult by the offended insurance company who had accepted your premium as a deserved gift rather than as a bartering chip for services that would only serve to inconvenience their employees and subcontractors. A person enjoying the life afforded by la belle France soon becomes inured to the torture of the hoops to be jumped through when faced with any form of bureaucracy. A point is quickly reached where the law of do as you would be done by falls with less persuasiveness on the ears of those who do not care how you are done by and are safe in the knowledge that you cannot do by them as you so very much would like to do. I spent many hours in this Kafkaesque scenario of phone calls, dossier numbers, approvals and strange waiting places to gain the services of the driver of a towing truck, in what little time he had available for work between meals and drinks, so that I could  be deposited in another empty hall where I awaited a taxi, called from the farthest limits of the Hexagon, to eventually return me home. I will be there for a while as there is now no car, and the last bus went many years ago.faded_garage_0569

If Tolkien or J.K.Rowling had written Owners Manuals, instead of wasting their talent on magic and myth, we would all be as capable of changing a cam belt as easily as saying our ACB: this is written to synchronise with current state of the R’s, or is that spelt Arse. The little known, and little read, Korean author who writes all user manuals for the world is sadly misunderstood. This might be because he writes in a dialect, so rarefied that in comparison Esperanto could be considered as the unifying international lingua franca, in which he is the only fluent writer and speaker. God knows, he has been consistent, and his international employers could not have been more supportive. They know that in the end the world will understand, and at last recognise the deeply hidden talents of Abso Lutebo Lox.

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About Food,Photography & France

Photographer and film maker living in France. After a long career in London, my wife and I have settled in the Vendee, where we run residential digital photography courses with a strong gastronomic flavour.
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23 Responses to Having a breakdown….

  1. Mad Dog says:

    These days the manual’s not much use – they all have to be plugged into a computer.
    Cars break down on purpose in France, it’s to afford the owner more time for sitting in the sun with a glass of Pastis 😉

  2. Tandy says:

    Given my week already I can relate. The car manufacturer told me our vehicle needed an engine overhaul and a whole page of extra work. My husband who gets how an engine works disputed that myth. Hope you get it all sorted out!

  3. Good luck with the car, Roger. In any language, car problems are the pits. We need to take our Mini in right now for an issue, and I dread it, because we have capitalized everything to the point that a routine service costs ten times as much as it should.

    • I had a Mini Cooper S in the 70’s which was a fantastic fun car . The modern Mini is a sophisticated piece of German hardware that demands a lot of money for any pleasure that it gives. Legalised hooker motor car – very German:)

  4. John harvey says:

    I’m almost embarrassed to laugh so much at what was a tiresome and no doubt, costly experience. But such erudition cannot be denied the reader’s delight. Now, where are my car keys….

  5. ChgoJohn says:

    If and when you get to the point where you can laugh at this, please let me know. l had car troubles on the way home from Michigan last November and I’m still not laughing. Maybe one day …
    Even so, this was a brilliant post, Roger. Very well done.

  6. Sorry to hear about your car troubles. This Transatlantic gangsta hopes the car is fixed by now. 🙂

  7. Michelle says:

    Oh dear. “Phone calls, dossier numbers, approvals and strange waiting places” — reminds me so of the time we ruined a tire on a leased car in France. Every day, we’d travel 30 km to the Peugeot dealership on the (tiny) spare and go through all the handshakes and greetings and wait and wait only to learn that, no, the new new tire hadn’t arrived as planned. We became such good friends that, when the tire finally arrived, we almost missed our visits. Good luck, and love the photos!

  8. Eha says:

    Thumbs up to kateshrewsday: had forgotten that one 🙂 ! But, Roger, if Tolkien and JK Rowling had written car manuals they would be unread authors without millions in the bank vaults!!

  9. Roger, a million thanks for the ‘nudge.’ I had ‘stared’ this to read at a later date, the week and weekend had been über stressful – so your wonderful story of car and bureaucracy travails was just what I needed this morning to brings tears of laughter to my eyes, and generally get me up and going! A million thanks. Seems to me that without transport you have plenty of time to read and enjoy and appreciated Walden.

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