Stet by Ria Bacon

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Not quite a Jaguar

Listen loud while you read ...







On the road again, to Schiphol to pick up Mr B. from Paris.

After accelerating to 130 km/hr, I noticed that the car didn't slow when I eased off the gas.

I braked slightly and tried again.

It was barely noticeable since I was going flat out, but still, I felt anxious. Then I chided myself for being silly, as if denying it would make the problem go away.

Shortly after, I saw a service station up ahead and pulled off the highway in neutral. As I began to slow, the noise of the engine became more audible. I realized with horror that it was still revving at top speed. I parked quickly and turned off the engine. ... The revs slowed until the engine was hiccuping and shuddering. But it didn't stop! I took the key out completely. It kept going! Aaagh! It's a ghost car! It's possessed!!

I jumped out in case it was going to explode. But it simply shuddered and shook a final time and stalled.

Jeezus!

What now? It was 106 km to Schiphol, I had a full tank of petrol, a half-loaded cellphone, it was getting dark and yes, I was wearing sunglasses.

I hit the cellphone. First the Dutch highway help-thing department. Goede middag, mevrouw. What? You have a car with Italian plates? You have to call the Italian highway help.

Buona sera, signora. What? You have Italian insurance? Call them *click*.

Okey-dokey. Got Aldo on the line at the insurance company in Milan.

Ciao! What? You are British, you have a Dutch car with plates converted to Italian ones ... and a French driver's licence?! ... ... It's hokay for me!

Just before my cellphone battery died, we concluded that the insurer's Amsterdam office would send out a tow truck. My car would be towed to a local lockup, then after the weekend, towed to the nearest Nissan garage.

Pfff. What a hassle.

Maybe, I thought, maybe if I keep a steady high speed without changing gear, then I could drive myself back home...

I set off at low speed with a banshee under the bonnet. I flipped on my emergency lights but that only encouraged people to honk their horns.

(What is that about?)

I turned off the flashing lights, doubled back and headed home.

It was very unnerving, driving with no feet on the pedals. The engine accelerated by itself up to its maximum revs, which was fine when there was no one in front of me. Otherwise I had to brake softly in order to rein in the screaming revs.

It was inevitable that the Ketelbrug (lifting bridge) would be up, so that I had to sit in the waiting line of cars, pretending that I was on the starting grid for a Grand Prix and ignoring the stares.

Look back in wonder

An hour later, I cruised into the residential area, sounding like a boy racer looking to burn someone off on a Saturday night road race.

I pulled up in front of the house and switched off the engine. The ba-DAM ba-DAM ba-DAM of the dying engine sounded like hardcore techno and the kids ran out in their pyjamas and started dancing in the headlights.

Yayyy! We've got a dancing car!
they screamed with delight.



Postscript

When I took the car to the garage the following week, it was fixed in 30 minutes and cost 40 euros.

I swear ... this car has a Teflon cost-resistant coating. We've spent almost nothing on it, almost begging the mechanic to do more checkups. Thirteen years old, 250 000 km on the clock and ready to rumble!

I almost thought about shipping it to Jamaica, but the local mechanic has offered to buy it for 250 euros. Deal!