Stood at the photocopiers at work yesterday morning, a colleague enquired whether I ever woke up and thought ‘it’s going to be one of those days?’ ‘I’m sure we all have’ was the gist of my reply, before reassuring her that I’d actually woken up feeling rather perky for a change. I saw her before I left work in the afternoon, her facial expression alone telling me she had indeed had one of those days without me needing to ask. I should have had my fingers crossed or touched something with a wood-effect grain on, as I tempted fate – today was one of those days for me.
Before I unravel too much of this unfortunate yarn, I must stress a golden rule to which us motoring enthusiasts are obliged to adhere: you have to own cars that are interesting. Not all the time, necessarily, but one must have a driveway provenance worthy of boasting about. I’ve long had a penchant for hydropneumatically suspended Citroëns which, combined with an almost complete lack of mechanical knowledge, ensured that custodianship of two XMs was less of a baptism of fire and more a Channel-length swim in green LHM fluid. After my most recent XM was sold a year ago, the initial plan was to replace it with a 30 year old Silver Spirit, but the way it spectacularly failed its MOT made me have a change of heart. I looked to Munich rather than Crewe for a replacement.
It’s rather clichéd isn’t it, all this Teutonic reliability and hewn from stone solidity? Well, no actually. The 728i selected was impressively built, equipment (and there’s masses of it) worked perfectly and it still felt tightly new, despite being a decade old and costing me less than 10% of its original list price. Other than servicing costs, wear and tear bills and £99 a time fill ups, it’s been deeply impressive – a comfortable yet engaging drive. Not as wieldy as a 3 Series or as cosseting as an XJ, granted, but a fine combination.
But back to the point, because today was one of those days, after all. I know it’s the second week of March and I shouldn’t be surprised to find a shroud of frost at 6:45 in the morning, but it was enough to cause an audible grumble as I trudged up the drive.
I only have a five minute drive to work, which is usually uneventful, but I had a niggling doubt something was about to go wrong. I circumnavigated the penultimate roundabout of the journey only for there to be a momentary lapse in power, accompanied by a monocoque shaking ‘chug’. A dab more throttle, rather than curing the problem instead illuminated a rainbow warning lights, dropped the speed and downchanged gears to first. 200 metres later I’d ground to a sorry halt, a quarter mile from work. It was indeed going to be one of those days.
At this juncture, it’s worth you learning that whilst motoring writing is where I dream of my future lying, I’m currently a secondary school teacher. And I’d broken down on a route walked by several hundred 11-18 year olds every morning. There’s an inevitable embarrassment factor having broken down. The sight of a large, expensive looking car parked at the roadside, bonnet up and blinking its hazard warning lights as though squeaking “look at me, look at me, I’m broken, you know?”, causes almost as much rubber necking from (mobile) motorists as an unfortunate prang.
The challenge was to be stranded without actually looking as though I was, while I waited for the recovery truck. Inspiration washed over me instantly, so I climbed in the back. Not only might it look like I was a down-on-his-luck tycoon who had sent his chauffeur off on foot to deal with some dire emergency, but it meant I could use my phone without incurring the wrath of police officers. After 30 seconds of being sat on the rear cushions I realised the fatal flaw in this plan. I looked like a complete prat. As discretely as possible, I slid down the leather until I was below the window line and drew my legs up making it look like I was tramping it out on a park bench. It was comfy, if freezing cold, and it meant I could email, text and call people in privacy. Apart from whenever Joe Public walked past and glanced in. The looks on their faces would be filed in a drawer labelled “What the..?”
This particular BMW has a built-in television (if you forget about the breakdown for the moment, think of it as a classified ad for the car), so what better way to while away the time until the mechanic arrived, with a bit of Miss Bleakley on Daybreak? I’d failed to notice the overhanging trees interrupting the reception, so instead of Christine it looked and sounded more like Rev Ian Paisley in a blizzard.
They say time passes when you’re having fun. So after what felt like 24 hours, the recovery man arrived. Unfortunately he chose to arrive during the peak flow of students passing my kerbside location. I clambered out in a manner which would have made Houdini proud, and stood at the side of the road, head bowed, trying not to make eye contact with the throngs or hear their howls of laughter as they mocked my situation. Thing is though, despite my position, I feel like a big kid, so while they sniggered and pointed, I knew I’d won: for a few seconds the impending repair bill didn’t matter, because I was going to miss morning registration and they weren’t. That’s satisfying.