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A bit of a prang

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAAlthough I’m still immensely proud of myself for having infiltrated the until-now secret world of the car club, which entitles me to my own Zipcar card that allows me to open strange cars by magic, there has been one slight hitch in the proceedings.

Our trip to the panto in Essex went swimmingly and, despite going off piste a couple of times on the M4, our drive to Manchester was successful and uneventful. But on the way back, when I was driving solo and sans Satnav, I did have a teensy little mishap. I was about eight miles from home and congratulating myself on a job well done when I took the wrong turn off the motorway and ended up in a blind alley round the back of a shopping centre with nothing but some industrial-sized dustbins and some abandoned shopping trolleys for company. It was dark, it was raining, and for a minute I thought I saw one of the shopping trolleys being pushed towards me. I did have a slight Bonfire of the Vanities moment, imaging all sorts of evil lurking in the urban no man’s land behind Toys R Us…. Because it was a strange car I couldn’t find the central locking system so I tried to turn round as gently as I could to escape “here be dragons” country.

As I negotiated my 17-point turn I managed to nudge a bollard behind me. Not hard but, you know, too hard to pretend it hadn’t happened. So when I got back to my designated parking space I checked the back of the car, couldn’t see anything obvious, but phoned Zipcar anyway to let them know I’d had a prang-ette. They were very sweet and because I’d taken out the extra cover-all-never-pay-a-penny-no-matter-what-happens insurance cover, they said all would be fine. But the next day I got an email asking me to fill in an incident form, draw an artist’s impression of the accident and scan it back to them – “Just routine” – but meanwhile they were suspending my membership until it was cleared up. Sigh. Blackballed by the car club on Day 2. But true to their word, once I’d printed the form, discovered which way was up (I had to include where North was in the drawing) created my own version of a VW Golf reversing, ever so slowly, into a parking bollard, and learnt how to use the scanner, all was fine and I was reinstated back into the car club with my reputation restored.

The next day I was on the bus to work, praying for a following wind and synchronised green traffic lights, when I realised we were not following our normal route. “Are we on a diversion?” asked one brave soul, venturing up towards the driver’s cab. “No, no – don’t worry,” said the driver, who sounded a tad under pressure. The next thing I noticed he was trying to turn the bus round by making a three-point turn – not easy in our local high street at the best of times, and certainly not to be recommended while driving a bus. Sure enough he was making about as good a job of it as I had the previous night in that blind alley. Before he was halfway round we heard the sickening telltale crunch of metal on concrete as he reversed into a bollard, but had no option but to keep grimly on, trying not to impale the bus on anything in the process. Outwardly all the passengers remained very British about it and no one said anything out loud for fear of spooking our poor driver even more, but you could hear the deafening sound of virtual gossip as everyone bent over their smartphones tap-tap-tapping away to either alert their mums or the internet. Either way I think the poor guy was trending on Twitter by the time he finally got back en route and had calmed down enough to radio his depot to explain that he had “gone off route” for a bit but was now back and all was well.

As water cooler moments go it was a cracker. Not only did I have the perfect excuse for being late but it also put any “stress” I might have had about work into perspective. I might lead my students down the garden path a few times grammar-wise, but however much I took my eye off the ball the only thing I could crash would be the computer. So I can only hope that poor newbie bus driver’s day got better and he didn’t completely lose his nerve and abandon them all in Sainsbury’s car park. I know I would have. I’m not saying I’m superstitious, but I do follow my grandmother’s adage that these things come in threes, so I’m bracing myself for my next adventure with moving vehicles. Her way of dealing with it was to beat fate at its own game – so every time she broke something she would go out into the garden and smash two jam jars to complete the triple and ensure that she had outwitted the jinx.

Prang-wise I’m two down with one to go. All I can say is that Jack had better keep a close eye on his dinky cars. Barbie’s driving lessons aren’t going too well….

Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn

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