On Meeting a Quiet Englishman

I have a car. I live in Austin, so it really helps, even if I took to driving like a teenage boy takes to soap and water. But, I do have a car.

But, maybe about 9 months ago, the manufacturer of my car (who shall remain nameless) sent me a recall notice; my passenger airbag was potentially faulty. If it deployed, it could send shards of sharp plastic into the face of anyone sitting there. Obviously, I’m the driver, so that didn’t seem too urgent to me. Anyone sitting in the passenger seat when I was driving clearly had little regard for their personal safety anyway. The notice said I would be contacted when I needed to take my car in for a service.

And so I waited. In the meantime, I moved from an apartment into a house. Like a grown-up. And then I got my second notice: good news! The dealership in Austin has the parts they need. They will contact me about making an appointment. I awaited the call with an appropriate amount of excitement.

And then…nothing.

Maybe 2 months ago, I got a final notice: the dealership is now ready for me to call them up to make an appointment. An interesting switcherchoo on the responsibility front there, customer service people, but we’ll let that go. So, I called, because my family is weird about not only getting into an accident in my car, but then getting a face-full of shrapnel micro-seconds after. They are weirdly insistent on this point.

I got passed around a couple of departments. I gave the recall number, the VIN of my car, my phone number. The customer service folks at Niss… I mean, at the dealership, said they would call. And I gave them a month. I got a postcard from N****n HQ, telling me I had to get my airbags sorted. There was a picture of a man on the front, he had scars from some hideous previous airbag/shrapnel incident.

I wondered what kind of photo library service supplies this kind of model.

Clearly, my airbag issue wasn’t going to fix itself, so I went in and made the appointment, in person; things moved pretty fast from there.

Which is why I was in a Lyft on a Monday afternoon. Destination: the Austin dealership to pick up my poor little car after her operation.

The Lyft car was small, grey, but clean. (This is important because the app asks about that afterwards. Otherwise I wouldn’t notice. I mean, a basic cleanliness is essential, sure, but I think my bar is pretty low. If I have to move newspapers or empty water bottles out of the way to sit down, this is not a deal-breaker for me.) I got in and the driver and I exchanged names, just in case someone else on my quiet street had ordered a Lyft in the middle of a work day. And I noticed it instantly. He was English. I’m English. We were clearly going to manage this in a way befitting our shared heritage. We would not mention it at all.

That wasn’t weird. You’re weird. But what happened next…Kinda weird.

So, we make small-talk. He confirms we’re going to the dealership. I tell him I need to pick up my car after repairs. He cracks a (very) small joke about how nice they are, letting me take my car back; I micro-zing back with an “as long as you give them enough cash”. We were settling into a light, low-pressure kind of badinage. And then, nothing. He didn’t say another word. I commented on how busy the traffic was. Nothing. I commented on the weather. (A guaranteed winner with my people!) Not a sound. I shut the hell up. That seemed to work.

It was only as we were pulling into the dealership that he spoke again. We passed a couple of huge police cars blocking in a family by the side of the road. A woman held a baby close to her; other children stayed close by. The whole family were the kind of brown that can get you into trouble in The Current Climate. A couple of uniformed policemen talked into the walkie-talkies fastened to their chests. In America, at this point in time, this looks even more sinister than it would otherwise. My very English driver said, “They hardly look like they’re a threat to anyone.” I agreed. He wished me a good afternoon and I headed for the garage.

When the app asked for a review, I checked the boxes for clean car and good driving.

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