My 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.
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.
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.