LAST summer, after years of getting the bus, I decided I would buy a 2007 Volkswagen Eos. The intersection of the Venn diagram of people who understand the implications of that statement and those who are keen opponents of Brexit is quite small. In fact, hello, Jeremy Clarkson. Nice jeans.
For those of you who are unaware, a VW Eos is a hard top convertible car, which was discontinued a few years ago for reasons which will become clear.
I had always wanted a hard top convertible because owning one is like owning a Transformer. All one has to do to put the roof down or bring it back up again is press a button, and then 17 individual motors whirr and fold or unfold the several components into a little package which is deposited in the roof. Can you think of anything more cool than that? No, you cannot.
But people said to me when I was considering my purchase, “Gary, you are an idiot. It’s older than your youngest child, and she goes to Big Big School now. You’re counting on 17 individual motors to work? You don’t even have T-shirts that old and T-shirts don’t have moving parts.
“You will regret this, you total nincompoop. Buy a normal car, which will get you from A to B, and which will not cover you with water every time it rains and you brake suddenly.”
I pooh-poohed all of them. They were just being massive spoilsports.
I marched to the second-hand motors dealer and spent an amount of money I will never see again on this car. There’s a reason why they call the people who sell cars “dealers”, isn’t there? You don’t call a greengrocer a “melon dealer” or a butcher a “mince dealer”. But we do refer to arms dealers. And drug dealers.
And, for the first couple of months, all was more or less well. This is because I bought a convertible car in July. When the rainy season came, all was more or less unwell. The seals between the individual parts of the roof which keep out the rain did not.
I went on to the internet to try to find out why this was happening, as if I did not know why it was happening. Even so, there was an expensive oil I could buy which would lubricate the seals. And so, every few weeks, I would lubricate the seals, a job not even a zookeeper has to do.
It did nothing to help, and so, every time it rained for more than 38 seconds, water would fill a channel, waiting for the moment that I would brake, at which point a tide would empty over my trousers, and run down my seat, gathering in a pool in which I would sit.
And then I lost my job. Well, “lost” is a bit too much. What happened is that I intentionally mislaid my job in exchange for some money. But it meant that I had enough cash to have the seals replaced, just as soon as I got round to it…
It appears that I have a tremendous tolerance for mild liquid inconvenience. Besides, I discovered that if I took the roof down for a moment, the water would drain away. I got used to this solution.
So, after a morning of heavy rain, I went to my car and took down the roof. And when I put it back up, one of the 17 motors gave up the ghost. The sun roof refused to close, and the rain started again.
I drove six miles to my nearest VW dealership as the rain came down and asked them to please make brum brum good again. They would definitely be able to fix it. But they couldn’t do it for another six days. Luckily, the motor came back online, and I was able to close the sun roof.
I went back six days later. A mechanic who specialises in the Eos and its ways took a look at it. “Yeah,” he said. “We need to replace this seal.”
“Thought so,” I said, smugly.
“Thing is, if we replace that seal, we have to replace this one as well,” he continued. “Basically, we have to replace all the seals.”
“Oh,” I said, less smugly. “That’s bad, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” he said. “Also, they don’t make the seals anymore, so we’ll have to source them from somewhere.”
I did not like the sound of this. “H-how much do you think it would cost?”
The mechanic quoted me a figure that was roughly equal to the amount for which I had bought the car eight months before.
“We could do the work,” he said. “But it’s not worth the bother.”
I don’t go out to work anymore. I don’t really need a car, I thought. I’ll just test the promise made by webuyanycar.com to destruction.
I was given a quote which was nowhere near half the amount I paid for the car, but was enough to let me walk away with some dignity, and I made an appointment to take it in.
But it had been raining on the morning of the appointment. I went to my car to take it on our last drive. And, before I thought about it, I pressed the button to lower the roof and drain the channel. And when I pressed it again the sun roof refused to close.
So I drove in the rain to see the webuyanycar.com man. He noted the condition of the sun roof, and reduced the offer by three-quarters.
I walked away with a tiny fraction of the cash I had splurged on the car, and something even more horrible occurred to me – I had just experienced a Brexit metaphor.
I was fine taking the bus everywhere before. It wasn’t perfect, but at least I didn’t have to insure my bus, or pay road tax.
And when I decided I wanted the independence of a car, I didn’t go for something sensible, I went for a teenage boy’s ideal car.
And when my friends and family told me of the pitfalls of convertibles, I dismissed their warnings as Project Fear. They were talking down unnecessarily complicated midlife crises.
And then, when things went wrong, I blithely kept calm and carried on. There was nothing structurally wrong with it, after all. It still got me from A to B. All it needed was a bit of grease on the seals. And so what if I had to sit in a pool of water? Ducks do that all the time and they’re happy enough.
And, when I finally faced reality, having chucked away a load of money, the car was so utterly fucked that I walked away with little compensation and even less dignity.
And the German automotive industry failed to come to my rescue, because it turned out they could very easily do without my business.