Since I’ve been in Switzerland we’ve owned a couple of cars. Some people have real love affairs with their cars. The closest we came to seeing anyone have an affair with their car was a Swiss neighbor of ours. He would get out of his car, walk around it twice and lightly kick each tire. Occasionally while walking around it he would drag his hand on the car in a stroke-like fashion. We saw him do this so many times. We can only imagine how many times he did that when we didn’t happen to see.
Ben and I do not and never have had a love affair with our cars. They were work horses for us. Simply means of transportation with neither sex appeal, social status nor human qualities. But looking back sometimes they did do sort of strange things, so maybe they did have a soul.
Our Silver Mitsubishi
This was our first car and it got us everywhere we wanted to go. On the day we wanted to sell it, I was driving on the highway to pick Ben up from work. I must have hit a small bump because the front hood opened up and flew into the front windshield. Besides surprising me it was also completely blocking my view of where I was driving.
Of course I slammed on the breaks and drove off to the shoulder of the road and stopped. I sat there, wondering what in the world had just happened and what I was going to do. Then a nice man pulled in behind me. We managed to get the hood tied down and somehow I got to where Ben was waiting.
The couple of hundred Francs we were supposed to get for selling the car literally flew in my face on the highway. We ended up paying someone to take it. Who knows, maybe the car was upset that we wanted to sell it? Self-destruction; if I can’t be with you, then I don’t want to be with anyone!
Smart Car – Tires
After many years of living in the city without a car we bought another one. This time it was a two seat, super small car. A first generation Smart car. The super cars of small cars. You could fit into parking spaces that other cars could only dream of.
The advertisement said it had enough room for two people and two cases of beer. But that was about all. No room for a spare tire. Then again, if you have your two cases of beer, what else do you need? Got a flat tire? Who cares. Drink a couple of beers and wait until help comes.
I don’t like beer, so the one time we had a flat tire we had no beer in the car. We had what I would call a “slow flat”. Possibly, we had rolled over something sharp so the tire just slowly lost air. We noticed that it kept losing air so we made sure that we would pump it up before going anywhere. We did this almost a year, then it began losing lots of air. Finally we had to use the spray can we had instead of the spare tire we didn’t have. It filled the tire with something expandable that immediately hardened what so we could limp to a garage. When changing the tire they saw that we had run over a nail.
Smart Car – Lights
Once I was giving a course in the French speaking part of Switzerland (the course was in German). A friend of mine who was driving behind me said our brake lights didn’t work. After the class I thought I would drop by a car shop and get them fixed.
I found a place and as I was entering the office it occurred to me that I don’t speak French. Sure, I could order tea and was good at pointing at what I wanted to eat in a menu. But this was a completely different level of communication. As I was walking up to the desk I was searching my mind for the French words I might need: light, broken, doesn’t work… Forget about sentence structure, if I got out the right words I had a chance of being understood. But I was drawing a blank. The lady behind the desk greeted me in French. I greeted her back in French and asked if she spoke German. No? Then maybe English, no? Gosh, I thought everyone spoke English!
Just as I was having this sinking feeling of being up a river without a paddle my cell phone rang. I said in my best French: “Un moment, s’il vous plaît”. My heart did a little happy jump when I saw Ben was on the phone! The Calvary had come to my rescue. Ben can speak French! I quickly explained to him where I was and what was happening. I then handed my phone to the lady and Ben told her what the problem was. He saved the day and made the Swiss streets a little bit safer in one fail swoop.
He usually called in the evening, why did he call right then? I have no idea, maybe telepathy?
When we move to Lengnau Ben’s uncle gave us his older, but well kept Saab. It was a beautiful car with lots of extras. Once, after a day of travelling, when we were almost home we went to a bakery to pick up something. Tired, I waited in the car. When Ben got back in the car it wouldn’t start. He tried everything he could think of but the motor wouldn’t turn over. We thought maybe the car needed some rest. We were near a grocery store and thought when we came back it might work again. So we walked to the grocery store and when we came back it started like there had been no problems.
The next day we went to Zurich and were worried that the car might get strange again. We were especially anxious when we stopped at a rest stop. But to our surprise and joy everything worked as it should. We got home safely.
A day later we took the car to the shop. We found out our car was smarter than we were. It had an anti-theft system and would refuse to start if the car had been turned off and then tried to be turned back on without the doors having been locked. Which was exactly what had happened when Ben went to the bakery and I stayed in the car. He didn’t lock it. We did lock it when we went grocery shopping which was why it started when we got back. There was no problem at the rest stop because we both had gotten out of the car and locked it. Had one of us stayed in the car we would probably still be there today.
Chalk up one more point for experience.