Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Life is funny sometimes. I can often be heard remarking to my students that the universe is a cold, dark, uncaring and pitiless place, but occasionally, a chain of events can occur, purely by happenstance and beyond your conscious control, that solves a problem you knew you had, but didn't know how to solve. Such a chain of events occurred to me in the last 24 hours or so. I had one major problem to solve this week. How on Earth was I supposed to get my car into the garage for the MOT it needs so I can purchase a new tax disk before the end of the month, yet still get the 15 miles or so from my house to my place of work and back again - preferably without requiring horrific three hour journeys via public transport, or equally horrific 5.30am starts to get a lift with the only colleague I have who lives in my general area. I was pondering this conundrum last night when I received a text message. It wasn't anything exciting, like a message from a long lost cousin saying I'd come into a vast inheritance or anything like that. No, it was Virgin Mobile nagging me that I only had two quid's worth of airtime left on my phone. I duly doffed my wallet, and topped up my balance by £20, which as it would turn out this morning, was crucial. After I'd finished planning my lessons for the next day, I went to bed and continued to wonder, just how the heck was I going to solve my problem and avoid the DVLA threatening to crush my car for not being able to MOT and tax my car in time. I woke up this morning, full of enthusiasm for the day ahead (that is, dog-tired and stressed - the standard state of being for a secondary school teacher) and climbed into the car, ready to face the ice-caked roads for another awe-inspiring trip to work. The universe, however, had other ideas. I opted to take the main roads, rather than the less busy shortcut I usually take, simply because I didn't want to run my car into a tree by skidding off an untreated road covered in ice, which again, turned out to be a good decision, as it meant spending nearly half an hour in stop-start traffic, trying to negotiate all the roundabouts and busy intersections that I normally bypass. What this meant was that by the time I met the usual queues of traffic at the M3 turnoff roundabout between Lightwater and Chobham, the clutch in my car was begging for mercy, and promptly died before receiving any. This sounds bad. And, indeed, it is. At the time, 7.35am, in the middle of rush hour traffic on one of the busiest roads in the local area, breaking down with a broken clutch could best be described as a catastrophe, and an expensive one at that. Particularly since the world and his wife, and their pet dogs and fish had also decided to break down in the cold weather at this precise point in time, meaning that it took me 25 minutes of waiting on hold to get through to the AA for them to send a rescue party. So it was just as well that I'd topped up my airtime balance the night before, because I would have run out of credit halfway through the time on hold if I hadn't. Also, thanks to the beauty of having recently upgraded to a smartphone (the cheap but rather awesome Samsung Galaxy Ace), I was able to alert my school that I wouldn't be in and email instructions for what cover work needed to be done, which wasn't that much, because even though I have a full timetable today, only three of my six groups needed covering, as one group was off-timetable anyway, the sixth formers are more than capable of fending for themselves and I was team-teaching another session that wouldn't require cover, so it wouldn't inconvenience people at school so much. Having sorted all that out while I waited for the AA patrol, I was able to redirect my attention to the car. Now, clutch failure is pretty serious - a bit of a showstopper, in fact. Knowing that the only option was to have my car towed to a garage, I decided to give my usual garage a call in the hope that they could double-book the car in to do the MOT at the same time, which they were able to do. I also knew that thanks to my top tier AA Gold membership, I get to have a courtesy car for 72 hours, thanks to the AA and Enterprise, which neatly sorts out my transport problem when the car is in the garage being fixed and MOT'ed. As usual, it took hours for the car to get to the garage, me to get to the car hire place and then to scoot off into the icy hinterlands of Surrey to collect my hire car and return to civilisation, but all's well that ends well. I have transport while my car is in the garage, and I should get it back, fully MOT'ed before the DVLA will start sending me threatening noises about unpaid car tax bills and crushed cars. As catastrophes go, this one was definitely fortuitously-timed and while it will no doubt prove an expensive one, at least I get paid next week, and it's not going to be my car I'm going to crash if the ice all gets too much later in the week. So here's to the universe's lateral thinking and problem solving skills - every cloud does have a silver lining... And after all, 134,221 miles isn't bad for one clutch, is it?