We once had a dog called Geoffrey, who in is his later years had a bit of a season ticket to the vet for various ailments. Invariably we would be seen by the same one of the vets, who although nearing retirement and reducing his hours always seemed to be around at the times that we brought Geoffrey in. The vet was a softly spoken Scot called Graham, very much of the ‘James Herriot mould ’ who was kind, gentle, empathetic and most importantly ‘knew his stuff’.
Geoffrey would get prodded, measured, temperature checked and injected but there was never a whimper. Graham the vet would invariably comment that he was sure that if Geoffrey could talk, Geoffrey would be a very polite dog! Geoffrey is sadly no longer with us these past years, but whenever I hear politeness being complimented, I think of Geoffrey.
Which brings me to the subject of my car. When I bought it some months ago I was intrigued by the 300 or so page manual provided. I sort of expected 30 pages of instructions in English with 9 other translations, making me the ideal pub quiz team companion as I would be able to reel off such important phrases as ‘replenishing your screen wash’ in Serbian, Catalan, Basque, Latvian and Lithuanian. Should that ever come up as a question.
I was somewhat taken aback to find that all 300 pages were in English, with the first 8 pages covering minor and inconsequential points such as how to start the engine, lock the doors, and turn on the lights with the remaining 292 pages on all the other magic that existed in the vehicle to make my life easier. I did start diligently reading but by the time I got to page 150, my eyes had glazed over with another 150 still to go.
Some weeks later we were on a long journey – well long by UK rural standard of about 250 miles – I appreciate that if you live in Australia or the US outside of the cities, people travel this distance just for a quick shopping trip and a coffee .
About half way along the journey, the car chimed – the car actually does a lot of chiming…it chimes when its about to tell you the temperature is down to +3 degrees centigrade; it chimes when the washer bottle is low in water (or as we say in Lithuania ekrano plovimas) , it chimes for more worrying reasons too like low tyre pressure….and here is the problem, I always associate chimes with impending bad news.
So along comes a chime and the message is ‘feeling tired, maybe you should stop for some refreshments?’ Hmmm, is this the car being judgmental and analysing my driving and determining fatigue, or is it just showing off its mathematical ability and calculating a halfway point in my journey ? I will never know unless I read more in the big book……
So fast forward a few more months and another journey and another chime. This time a very genteel and polite message advising that my oil level was a little low and at my convenience could I top up with 1 litre? Very polite, but very precise. As the car had asked so nicely, and as I had some distance to travel, I stopped at the first roadside garage and bought oil and duly topped up. It wasn’t the cheapest oil in the world, but this garage had a captive market and therefore the chance to sell oil at about the same price per litre as liquid gold or computer printer ink !
Back on the road again, and this time on the UK’s M1 motorway, a veritable race track crammed with high-speed cars, trucks and not much calmness here.
A few miles passes and ding, another message, but this time politeness has gone – a stark message in red that might as well have had a coffin symbol flash – ‘Your car has TOO MUCH oil, stop and do not proceed. Major engine damage could result. Seek technical assistance now’. Fortunately, I was near an exit and got myself off the motorway. In the UK we have so called SMART motorways where there is no ‘shoulder’ and just a detection system that theoretically causes signage to close the live lane that you are in, but of course relies on following drivers to see the signage and exit the lane. There have tragically been serious and fatal accidents in these and I did not want to add to those statistics!
Anyway, once exited, I did seek assistance and I finally got me home and car got to the garage for repairs. Naturally I asked what did they have to fix, a measuring sensor I had assumed?
Oh, no they said giving me a pitiful look…its just a software issue, all fixed , new version downloaded and all will be good , don’t worry!
I live in hope!