The Bitter Taste of Failure
I’ve been in some very tense waiting rooms, as I imagine we all have at one time or another. The doctor’s the dentist’s, the vet’s – but none of them compare to the tension in a National Car Testing waiting room. There were four other people waiting when I arrived, all men. Faces on them as long as a wet Sunday in Bray, heads down, studying their shoelaces. So I assumed a similar pose; I like to fit in with the crowd.
The tester called the first guy. He rose, faltering, from his chair like a man condemned – I thought he might need assistance. His car failed. Something about the suspension. He bowed his head and accepted his fail certificate bravely enough, although I think he was fighting back the tears. I decided there and then not to show relief if my car passed. I don’t like to gloat.
An elderly man came in, headed straight for the counter, announced his name, and handed in a cheque. For a second, I thought he’d handed in an incendiary device.
“You can’t bring that in here!” hissed the cash assistant, visibly shaken.
“Bring what?” asked the old man.
“A cheque! A cheque! It’s on your form – we don’t take cheques!” Talk about a stage whisper. He couldn’t have been louder if he screamed.
The old man looked a bit puzzled, and asked the very pertinent question why not? He had ID, a bank card, his driving license, he even had his passport.
Another assistant arrived and asked what the problem was.
“He’s trying to give me a CHEQUE!” spluttered the first assistant. The second fella nearly fainted. Wouldn’t even handle the cheque, for fear of…well I don’t actually know.
“But it’s on the form….”started the second assistant.
“So I’ve been told, but I haven’t been told why” the old man said, aware that he suddenly appeared to be as welcome as a piranha fish in a garden pond.
“I can pay cash if you’d prefer? Would that be acceptable?” The first assistant mopped his brow and took a deep breath, just like they do in the movies when they’ve managed to de-activate the bomb on the plane in very last second.
Phew! All of that high drama distracted me from my own. My car was up on a ramp somewhere nearby, presumably being screened by sniffer dogs for cheques and other banned substances.
The car tester called my name. I approached him with a slight faintness about my countenance.
“You’ve got a good engine, love!” he grinned. Oh, joy! Hallelujah! My tiny little mo-mo which is nearly an antique, has a good engine! Yay!
“So I passed?” I whimpered, holding back tears of exultant joy.
“No, you failed. You didn’t take your hubcaps off. And you need to change a tyre in the front.”
Hubcaps. Damn, damn, I forgot. Could have kicked myself. And I’d just bought a new tyre, I should have bought two.
They’re sad and sorry places, those NCT centres. I left looking just as glum and woebegone as the man who’d left before me. In fact he had left softly muttering myriad obscenities that would make a navvy blush. I muttered the same ones, actually. Very loudly. Although I did wait until I was safely inside the car.
But I took some solace in the fact that my galloping maggot, at the grand old age of 112 in dog years, still has a sound and solid engine. I’m less than half its age in human years, and I’m in far worse nick. But I’m going to get myself a new tyre and strip my hubcaps, like a shameless hussy, and drive back there all stripped and ready, with renewed hope and vigour. Oh yes indeedy, I’ll be back. And just for a bit of added excitement, I might chance offering them a cheque.