Wednesday, April 15, 2015

THE waiting room was busy for that time of the day. It was as busy as a doctor’s surgery on the Tuesday morning after a bank holiday weekend.

It was stuffy, over-crowded and, frankly, smelly. The odour of oil, petrol and testosterone hung in the air.

This was an NCT centre in an unidentified industrial estate in an unnamed town. It’s where cars go for a jolly good seeing-to by expert, able-handed mechanics – a place of adventure for some people who love cars, but for others a place fraught with bad-temperedness and resentment.

Women sat with their brows kitted into a frown, while the men had their legs stretched out in front on them, relaxed.

“Are you in for a full test?” one of the fellas asked his neighbour in the seat beside him.

“I surely am, but I didn’t get anything done with the car beforehand. I’ll just let her through as she is and see what they say. That’s the way, isn’t it?”

“Has to be done,” the neighbour answered, as if philosophising on life – Zen and the art of motor mechanics.

Strangely, any children that were there were with their mothers. None of the men had any rugrats with them. God bless ’em, the kids tried to entertain themselves as best they could by peering through the dirty windows into the garage itself. Engines roared, thrillingly, like it was a joyride, but even that sound eventually became mundane and the assorted youngsters were soon kicking seven shades of shite out of each other. That made their narky mothers even narkier.

A queue had formed at this stage at the reception area, but there was no-one behind the counter. Just then, a man with greasy overalls and a smile opened the small, sliding window at the reception desk.

The woman at the head of the queue proceeded to take the head off of him for making her wait. It was like witnessing a student having a row with her teacher, minutes before an important exam.

“Bad move, missus. This is a car crash waiting to happen,” I thought.

It’s the nerves, you see. That’s what does it. That’s what leads otherwise calm, sensible people to lose the run of themselves.

‘Abusive behaviour towards any member of the staff will not be tolerated and will result in you being asked to leave the test centre’, a notice pinned on the wall politely informed the potentially-seething masses. I observed that there was no mention of a prosecution as a result of said ‘abusive behaviour’.

I can completely understand that people’s nerves can get jangled when confronted with the national car test. The reason is simple and can be boiled down to one word: money!

If you have a car that’s old enough to warrant a yearly NCT, chances are that you’re pouring more than just petrol into it to keep it on the road.

Take my own car. (Please, please, let someone, anyone, take my car!) That God-awful rust bucket has had so many parts blown up, replaced or upgraded that’s it’s practically a different vehicle from the one I originally bought. It’s the Steve Austin of cars – like the bionic man, because all the important bits have been replaced.

Through the murky window, I saw my car being tested. I bit my lip like an anxious mother. I didn’t want to get annoyed but I still effed and blinded at how much this latest little outing would end up costing me when it failed the test.

Five minutes later, my name was called. The car was ready.

As expected, it failed. But it only needed a new tyre.

Exhaling loudly, I pushed open the waiting room door, vowing to sell that crap car while the going was good …

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