On Thursday I was due to take a group of 5 kids, including The Hair, to Bunbury for a World Vision Global Leadership Convention. Neither of our cars can carry more than 5 people so I needed a car with greater carrying capacity.
Stu has a Kia Carnival people mover but when I asked if I could borrow it said he didn't think it would make it to Bunbury and back!!(A distance of 50km!) He unnecessarily added, "Don't ever buy a Kia"!
He suggested I ask Ozzy who has a 7 seater Mercedes and is known to be a generous man.
(I borrowed his truck when we moved into this house.)
Ozzy was in Perth when I rang but readily agreed to let me use the Merc and rang Jo to tell her I'd be around to pick it up later.
When I arrived to collect it Jo said "Its pretty straight forward, no tricks you need to know to drive it".
OK I thought, I've driven plenty of cars in my life, this should be easy enough.
Do you sense a story of under-preparedness and over-confidence coming on?
I should have suspected things would not be straight-forward when I went to put the key in the ignition and it wasn't there! The ignition that is.
A short search turned it up on the wrong side of the steering wheel, not the right side where it should be.
Fair enough, at least I found it, and the car started when I turned the key. But only the first time. When I stalled it it wouldn't restart until I turned it off completely and tried again. A little idiosyncratic but still not a big problem. We were under way.
Then I noticed the brake light on the dashboard was on, suggesting that the handbrake was still engaged.
Then I noticed it didn't have a hand brake!!
Not on the floor.
Not on the right.
Not on the left.
Not under the dashboard.
There was a strange looking lever jammed tight down beside the seat but no matter how hard I pulled it nothing happened. Then I noticed a strange extra little pedal on the far left, well beyond and above where a clutch pedal would be if it weren't an automatic.
With nothing left to try I pushed it and it seemed to engage in a way similar to a hand brake.
Next problem, how to disengage it? Pushing it didn't unlock it.
Hooking my foot beneath it and pulling refused to budge it. If it was the hand brake it was now stuck on.
Then I tried the little handle labelled P (which I thought was the petrol cap cover release, but more of that later!) beneath the light switch and lo and behold, the little pedal snapped back out. I repeated the process to check it hadn't been a fluke and the same thing happened.
Fancy that, a foot operated hand brake!
But! The brake light did not go off!!
Deciding to ignore the light. I headed for the school to pick up the kids, if a burning smell occurred I'd investigate further, otherwise, we needed to get going.
Kids aboard we set out for Bunbury.
Trying the radio I discovered it would not pick up FM and there was no CD playyer so the kids were condemned to listening to ABC AM, which could only be tuned in by the most unusual tuning "dial" I've ever seen. It was a little rubber "conveyor belt" you have to manipulate until you find the station you're after. The volume on the other side worked the same way!
Just after we passed the petrol station I looked at the fuel gauge and saw it was very low.
In my own car I'd have known if it would make it to Bunbury on that amount of fuel, but in a strange car, that was already causing me concern concern and knowing there was no other fuel available until Bunbury, I decided caution was called for and doubled back to the servo.
That's when things started to bet really surreal!
I began looking for a release switch for the fuel cap which as you can see has no key hole.
There wasn't one!
I was tempted to try the same P labelled handle that had released the hand (foot) brake seeing as it felt much the same as a typical fuel release catch when I pulled it.
Perhaps German engineering had given it a dual function I mused somewhat illogically!
That didn't work.
I got out and got down on my hands and knees and hunted high and low for something that wouldn't open the fuel cap cover.
Feeling slightly awkward and self-conscious in front of a group of kids I didn't know, all my "non-mechanical self image demons " came to taunt me!
With no idea what to do, and time ticking away, I did what any sensible man would do.
No I didn't swear and kick the car.
I rang for help.
Not having Jo's number, I rang Ozzy and explained my predicament.
With admirable self-restraint and patience he explained that all I had to do was push on the fuel cap cover and it would swing open!!!!!!!
I had been aiming way too high, expecting something mechanical, or electronic, or sensible!!
It never occurred to me to try force!!
While I had him on the phone I asked about the brake light.
"Oh yeah, that stays on, I don't know why, the hand (foot) brake doesn't work, but the light won't go off" !!!!
Great, at least I'd solved that riddle!
Finally, with petrol in the tank we were on our way. The Hair's favourite part of the car was the rear facing back seats where he and Emily sat, chuckling away as they read a Far Side book.
The rest of the journey passed without mishap!
PS. When I arrived at the school to pick up the 5 kids only four showed up!!!!!!!!!!!