It was that time of the year again – the car needed a service. It is an inevitable part of car ownership, along with a healthy fear of hail, constant anxiety over petrol price hikes and a sense of immense accomplishment when you manage to change a tyre or two.
Taking a leaf out of my grandfather’s book – the man was excellent with money – I duly put some money in an envelope every month for my service. I even delayed it a little bit this year, so that I would have an extra month or two to add to the kitty, bearing in mind that it was coming up for a major service. I was also prepared to have to top up the envelope cash a bit with Mr Credit Card, as I had been forewarned that I may need to replace a few of my ignition coils.
So, cash cleverly secreted about my person, I dropped off my baby at the dealership and headed to work. An hour later, my phone rang. “Hi, this is Cynthia from X, Hatfield. Do you remember whether it was the front ignition coils or the back ones that they warned you about last time?”
“Hmm, I had no idea that there were two sets,” I said, “just that I might have to replace two or possibly all four.” “Ma’am, there are actually eight in total.”
My hear t skipped a beat. Cynthia said they’d check them all and get back to me. It was a long morning of waiting for my phone to ring.
Eventually it did. On the bright side, they only had to replace four of the coils. On the down side, they had to replace FOUR of the coils! Oh and the battery, and the windscreen wipers – and let’s not forget the wheel bearing. “So what is that going to cost?” I asked, pretty sure I actually didn’t want to know the answer.
The number that slipped silkily from her mouth klapped me across the face like a medieval tool of torture. “What?” I croaked, and then frantically added up the cost in my head as she reeled off the prices of the individual parts.The end result was a number more than three times the money in the envelope – which had looked like a lot when I had retrieved the wad of notes that morning.The shortfall was also significantly more than benevolent Mr Credit Card had said he would chip in, and I could see him glaring disapprovingly at me from my wallet.
I felt like crying.Then I made a cup of tea (sadly, we had already finished off the office wine) and had a little think.
This car has been a joy for seven years and has always served me well, kept me safe and taken me wherever I wanted to go – with reasonably priced services and great fuel consumption. And besides, I’m privileged enough to actually own a car. And with that comes the convenience of not having to stand in queues for public transport, not having to lug heavy parcels home, not having to potentially put myself in danger by never knowing just how safe my next ride will be. I have the freedom to not have to plan my excursions according to timetables and not have to get wet walking in the rain.
I am extremely lucky to have that level of convenience and reliability in my life – and surely that, and the continued safety of my car, are worth paying for?
My credit card is almost maxed out, and I will be eating rather a lot of baked beans on toast for the next few months, but at least I have the option to do that.
Sometimes it takes a medieval tool of torture to wake you up to the fact just how much you have to be grateful for, and to remind you to do what you can to help those who may not be that lucky.
PS: If you really want to feel grateful for your blessings, try living without a washing machine for five months. (Done it, never want to do it again!)