COLUMN: March 14, 2013

I SPEND quite a lot of time on buses, but I do actually own a driving licence and, indeed, a car. It is a black car, and there the similarities between myself and Batman end.

A couple of Sundays ago I went out visiting, as people used to do on Sundays before they let the shops open. I had left a couple of items in the boot and needed to retrieve them before the visit proper began.

I pressed the special catch, the lock clicked open, and I pulled open the boot, and, basically, it all came off in my hand. Specifically, the plastic moulding around the catch, which I had always used to get purchase on the boot in order to open it, sheared off with a sickening crunch.

It dangled limply, attached only by some electrical wires, and I sighed. I tried to reattach it but it was no use. And I sighed again. Because I knew what this meant.

I was going to have to explain to a professional how I had broken my car and I simply do not have the vocabulary.

I returned home after applying gaffer tape to the affected area and called the dealership where I bought my car.

A pleasant woman in the service department answered.

“BOO-HOO! CAR BROKE! MEND CAR!” I said. I am only partially paraphrasing.

“And what is the problem?” the woman asked, after I’d calmed down.

“The bit around the catch has sheared off,” I said. I knew even then that wasn’t going to be enough.

“I’m sorry, sir, can you explain in a little more detail?” she asked.

“There’s a sort of plastic moulding around the catch on the boot. And I pulled it off.” As I said it, I must confess there was a part of me that was impressed by my own strength.

The service woman seemed happy with my explanation, which was good as, as I have explained, I do not have the vocabulary. I am not a mechanic. I know what a car is, and I know how to drive one, but that is about my limit.

I suspect many mechanics go home at night, and switch on their TVs or generic tablet devices, and have no idea how they work, or how to program in C++, or how HTML 5 handles multimedia files.

And that causes them no difficulty in social situations because knowing how to fix cars is part of the officially sanctioned list of Man Skills, while knowing how to fix computers is not

I do think the list needs to be updated, in the same way that the basket of shopping in the Consumer Prices Index is frequently updated to remove, say, Dickie Valentine long-players, and replace them with, I don’t know, something on the internet. But in the meantime I am stuck.

I arrived at the service desk at the time of my appointment. I tried to hand over my service book and the wheel nuts which the woman on the phone had insisted I would need – which were in the boot, and which made me tear the moulding off again because I’d forgotten – though even I knew that you don’t have to take the wheels off to fix the boot.

The woman on the service desk chuckled at my nuts. “We won’t be needing them, sir,” she said. I ignored the opportunity for the obvious line and merely looked at her ruefully.

I sat in the waiting area, and watched as men in oily overalls – real men – did mechanical Man Things, while I did some non-manual work with a pen, and wished I were a real man.

Then I decided that there were many sorts of men. We need men who design cars, and men who fix cars, and men who drive cars. And that is just in the car sector. There are several other jobs, too.

And a world of mechanics would be a world with lots of working cars, but precious little poetry and music and risotto.

I had earned the money which paid for the mechanics to fix my car. I am a real man, dammit. I have the underpants and Sure for Men to prove it.

Reassured in my masculinity, I went back to my work. And then Chaka Khan came on the radio. And as the mechanic walked over to me to tell me the work was complete, I absent-mindedly started to sing along.

“I’m Every Woman, it’s all in meeeee.”

And this is basically why I get the bus.

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