Whirr, scream, jiggle-jiggle, scrape – kerthunk… That’s the grinding sound of my career’s trip meter rolling into its 11th year with all the finesse of a dilapidated church clock. Still, it’s more than enough to get the old nostalgia gland ticking.
The only problem is where do I start and how can I convey what it’s like to actually work in this odd little RON-rated bubble? All those sights, sounds, places, cars and personalities…
Well for me, it has to be about the people and in particular, their humour that is often as twisted as a cabinet minister’s underwear. Sometimes it’s inappropriate to the point of bad taste, but more often than not even a terrible day can end with such trite moaning and bitching that the ensuing laughter leads to stomach cramps.
One of the clearest indications of motor humour is the reaction or, more accurately, the post-mortem following the biggest of professional blunders – the car crash. As you’d expect from a predominantly blokey sect, the word ‘compassion’ and its pseudonyms are completely absent from the trade and no better tale illustrates this than one involving one of my old bosses.
He liked speed, but unfortunately for him and everyone else, he wasn’t really able to keep up with it. Naturally therefore he wasn’t a stranger to the sensations, smells and emotions that accompany a spectacular shunt. Hell, he even managed to spin a Manta on the elevated section of the A316…
This chap’s favourite whoopsy involved the launch of the 20-valve Quattro which was held at one of Britain’s leading circuits (you’ll understand the need for deliberate vagueness in a moment). Anyway, as usual he was feeding his need for speed and driving like his testicles were on fire. The problem was that he wasn’t taking heed of his instruments, because if he had, he would have noticed that his talent gauge was running on empty.
Rounding a bend, he got the answer to the speed divided by mechanical grip equation horribly wrong – practically ending up with a top-heavy, vulgar fraction. He understeered off with such ferocity that nothing would slow the careering Audi down – let alone deviate it from a horrible and inevitable rendezvous with a large dead tree. The violence and chaos continued, as did the momentum. Pinging gravel was ricocheting everywhere. So he closed his eyes waiting for the sickening, brutal deceleration of a big impact – but it didn’t come.
Instead, the Quattro punched a hole right through the heart of the trunk, sending splinters everywhere and he ended up making a huge splash in a nearby water feature. Shocked, shaken and surprised to have everything intact and as it should be – he was only brought around by a marshall splashing to his aid and opening the driver’s door. Tea and sympathy weren’t on the agenda, as the marshall uttered a now immortal sentence without pause nor hesitation: “Clearly sir, you’re a bit of a c*** aren’t you…?”
The unusually blunt use of the ultimate four-lettered taboo with such a polite term of address as ‘sir’ still makes me smile.
Of course, now that I’ve donned the rose-tinted optics I could go on recalling all sorts of metal-bending horrors. The problem is, I forget which have officially happened and which haven’t – and believe you me, getting those two mixed up is one sure-fire way of seeing someone lose their sense of humour and me experiencing a very sudden career change…