Last week, when everyone was complaining about rail fares having gone up, I went to the train station. “Tell me the worst,” I said to the railway ticket woman. “What’s the price of the return?”
“It’s gone down by two pounds,” she said.”
“Pardon? Down? How about the car parking charge?” (Thinks: bound to have rocketed. It’s alwasy packed.)
“Stayed the same,” she replied.
Result! Fare reduced by two pounds per trip! That evening as I drove back, I calculated how much this would save me over the year. At that point, the car’s engine said KERLUNK KERLUNK ABONKABONKABONK. Then the noise stopped but the engine continued running, apparently untroubled. But the battery light came on. The power steering was unpowered. The headlights had gone rather dim. What the hell..?
I drove on, wondering what had just happened. The engine temperature soared. But, being about seven miles from home, and able to drive slowly if necessary, I carried on, reasoning that it would be better to keep going than stop and not be able to start again. Meanwhile, the car thought for a bit, and a couple of miles later came the “bing-bong!” sound that means it’s got an announcement, which it flashed on the display panel: CHECK FAN BELT. Which probably meant that the earlier noise had been the fan belt departing this life. And the car.
I drove gradually home and called the RAC, who came out and agreed with what I’d found on opening the bonnet: the fan belt was indeed MIA. He towed it to a garage.
Given that we’ve got two kids at school and a younger one who isn’t, this meant we were thrown into the position of the person who has to ferry a bunch of cannibals and missionaries across a river using a boat that can’t take all of them at once. You know the problem - if the cannibals outnumber the missionaries on either bank, they’ll eat them. So you have to ferry cannibals or missionaries back and forth to keep the numbers right. Similarly, trying to pick up the kids and the wife and get from place to place suddenly, with one car (and no usable public transport - we’re in the sticks) becomes a mindbending problem. “I’ll go there and then you’ll meet me after I’ve done that, then you drop me and I’ll go there and…”
Happily, the garage fixed the problem quickly (only one day inside). The bill? Ah, yes, the bill. It came to just over the amount that I’ll save this year by the reduction in the rail fare.