‘Hah, is that the van? No wonder it took you an age to sell…’
– Kate Litchfield
I sure have learnt a lot about motor vehicles in the year since I bought my first, a second-hand (/tenth-hand?) van we called Bella. Actually, much of what I learnt was discovered in the first month. I judged this book by its cover. Thrilled by the prospect of nesting in the roomy back area during our travels, I neglected to realise that while living in her would be a dream, getting anywhere would be a nightmare. The hole in the exhaust and oil leak were one issue and the problems with the brakes and the flange (this is a real thing) were another. Add to that the corroded spark plugs that were passed over in the basic service she received (to see if we could take her through the desert – the answer being a resounding ‘no’) and the issue with the alternator (not the battery), and we had a gas-guzzling hole in our pocket on our hands. But it was still a wonderful adventure along the coast of Oz and, from throwing a flat in the wilderness on our first day to spluttering out while a potential buyer test drove her on one of our last, Bella made it all the more adventurous.
Last week, we had some old Sydney friends to visit, who had known Bella back in the day. We took them on an impromptu road-trip to chase the last of the season’s fresh powder dumps, a few hours north. Our trusty chariot, Charlie, took us within a few hundred metres of the steep, snowy summit before simultaneously throwing off a freshly broken snow-chain and presenting us with a flat tyre. Very much stuck, we slid back out the way to watch fellow excitable snow-fans pass us, stealing our first lifts and making the fresh tracks that had had our names on them.
So, having removed one of the back tyres, using our heinous jack with a shifter in place of a handle, we put it on the front in place of the flat so we could rechain it, one of us having hitched to the top and back again to have the chain fixed. This meant the questionable spare tyre could sit on the back. Then, finally, we made it up! And the snow was everything we had hoped for.
On the way back down, the spare tyre blew. I kid you not. We spent the evening crawling on the flat along the deserted mountain road towards the nearest town, eventually managing to send one of our number ahead, hitching with the original flat tyre to drag the local mechanic out of the pub to patch it up. Then, finally, we made it home! And boy, we had a story to tell.
There are a few morals in all of this. One: what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and wiser (or at least funnier). Two: never judge a book by its cover – check under the hood. And three: there is nothing so valuable as a good attitude. We could have let Bella ruin our Ozzie east coast trip, instead, we took every knock as it came, often nervously, at the end bankruptly, but nonetheless with good humour and the ability to see a learning experience for what it was. We could have let Charlie ruin our powder day – one of the troop throwing teddies out the pram and having a tantrum at missing the first few hours in the snow could have soured the day for all of us. Instead, we pulled together and shifted, seeing the hilarious in the disastrous.
So, I ask you, what’s gone stupidly wrong lately? With obvious exceptions, does it really have to ruin your day/month/life? Or, if faced with the right attitude, down the road, could it be a lesson learned and a funny story – a shared experience you remember with a rueful smile? I hope at least that my car trouble made you chuckle. Do share your own stories so we can all offer you sympathy/smiles – a different perspective makes our problems easier to bear.