Updated: Jun 12, 2020
A palpable sense of excitement ensued when I realised a visit to the car dealership was required. Not an emergency, you understand, just an annoying and persistent alarm advising technical malfunction. Normally an inconvenience, this dashboard-blip represented a legitimate scoot up the road in the pursuit of assistance.
Outings are few these days. Inclement weather precluded a “private garden” visit, so this was my chance.
For years we’ve had Hondas. Many hours spent in the dealership’s waiting room and, by all account, every outlet is as efficient as my local. One lady from the furthest coast of England once told me she’d returned, after several decades, to her native county only to be met with the same level of friendliness and professionalism as was proffered at her own dealership 500 miles further south. Good to hear.
So, it was no burden to head for the garage.
But what a difference a lockdown makes. Had I come to the right place?
Parking’s tricky; inadvertent intrusion into another’s two metre bubble must, of course, be avoided. In just three months, “Excuse me.”
“No, excuse me,” an exchange all have accommodated so rapidly in our new Corona lexicon.
Where once humans would greet you at the door, now anti-bac wipes and sanitiser stand to attention.
Like gun-slingers in the O.K. Corral, keys had to slide across surfaces to be cleaned and handled with gloves.
Everywhere, Perspex protection had sprouted, carefully maintaining the all-important distance between staff and customers.
A mask-donning mechanic came to my aid. It reminded me of a surgeon going into theatre; he listened, nodded, proceeded to the job-in-hand, a shielded face giving no indication of the prognosis. “Will ‘he’ be alright?” I nervously asked.
Doors of the car remained open. I had to step back. A few knobs twiddled; it was sorted.
My hero retreated, but not before administering a full surface-clean. Job done.
But I’m glad to report that not everything had changed. Staff were, as ever, still fantastically helpful, deftly incorporating very recent legal requirements into their daily routine. Despite strange new see-through structures, crinkly ‘uniforms’ being the new normal and waiting room chairs orbiting around one another like lost satellites, personnel had somehow, miraculously, appeared from the shutdown as the same warm, efficient body.
Smiles, a small joke, polite inquiry as to the welfare of the family and ‘what can we do for you today?’ Frankly, staring straight ahead, blinkering yourself to the myriad signs reminding the application of social distancing, you could be forgiven for feeling you’d been spirited back to February 2020 by Dr Who’s Tardis.
All the essential and reassuringly familiar elements of a trip to the garage. For a few precious moments, it felt just like old times.
Having just bought a new car, one customer was being presented with a large bunch of flowers. “Aren’t they just wonderful,” she crooned, sweeping past to collect the new wheels.
They sure are and she wasn’t talking about the blooms either. She meant people. Kind human spirit that’s kept going despite the changes.
MOT testing may well have been given a government extension, but one thing’s for sure, I won’t be delaying a trip to the garage any longer than is absolutely necessary.
“Quality is not an act, it is a habit,” said Greek philosopher, Aristotle.
Thank you, Ronnie and Co. I’m so grateful that your old habits die very hard.