‘And for my next trick,’ said the Volvo, as I parked at the supermarket and pulled the handle of the door to get out, ‘I shall refuse to open while you are inside.’
‘What the…?’ I said, after pulling the handle a couple of times. I clicked the lock button by the window just in case I had inadvertently managed to child lock the driver’s door. Then I clicked the unlock button on the key. Then I turned the ignition on and off. Then I tried the handle again. Then I decided to have a good scream.
I had only just had the 72 fault codes cleared by Karl the mechanic. The Volvo had been flashing warnings at me for weeks. But Karl could find nothing wrong.
Then there was the broken wing mirror, only partially fixed with a new mirror piece. The broken backing on the motorised unit couldn’t be replaced because according to the Volvo spare parts division — as hysterical and oversensitive an organisation as you might expect — that particular piece of dead plain black backing is extinct. After a repair job costing me £250, therefore, the wing mirror is held together with gaffer tape.
But all of that paled into insignificance beside the latest problem: to wit, I could not get out of the car. No warning light about that, incidentally.
Now, of course, with hindsight, it was all very simple to extract myself from the initial fix. But you have to remember I was not thinking clearly. I was having a moment.
And so I sat in the car for a long time, panicking about what could be wrong with the handle, phoning the ex-builder boyfriend who wasn’t answering and letting my mind do all sorts of wild flights of fancy about the price Volvo spare parts were going to charge me for the bits needed to make my door open again. Possibly, they would have to rebuild the entire car from the handle outwards.
In the end, I was in a terrible lather and could see no other way out but to climb over the central console and through the passenger door, which was working fine. The driver’s door was also in perfect order if you operated it from the outside, I discovered.
I decided to do my shopping and try the handle again when I came back. Perhaps the Volvo was having a hissy fit and would co-operate if I left it alone for a bit. But no, alas, the handle still didn’t work after I drove back home. I was stuck with it.
I was preparing to climb over the central console again when my phone rang. It was the spaniel trainer. ‘I’ve got a cancellation if you want it,’ he said. I am now so out of work with my working cocker that the trainer refuses to let me have actual appointments. He only gives me his more conscientious clients’ cast-offs. Usually, I take these sloppy seconds gratefully but on this occasion I was feeling too exhausted from having the floor wiped with me by the Volvo to take him up on his offer.
‘I don’t think I can get to you in time,’ I said. ‘I’m stuck in my car.’
‘When you say you’re stuck in your car, what do you mean?’ said the spaniel trainer, with the same voice he uses when I ring him to complain that the spaniel has got a strange rash that I’m sure is either Alabama Rot or chicken pox.
‘Oh, you know, the door handle’s broken. I’m having to climb out the passenger side. I’m really fed up, actually.’
‘Have you thought about winding the window down and putting your arm out and opening the door using the handle on the outside?’
I actually heard the ping! sound in my own brain. ‘You are a genius! A genius!’ I told the spaniel trainer. ‘I’ve always said it. You are a brilliant, brilliant man.’
‘Right. Well. Speak to you later.’
Oh, I felt like I could fly after that. Who cared about the inside door handle? I had an outside door handle and a window. I could do anything. The world was my oyster. I might never need to fix the inside handle. I could live very happily like this. Why, there was something brave and rustic about it. I felt the frontier spirit surge within me. Yes, this was how the West was won!
I was rapt by the simple, pioneering pleasure of sticking my arm out of the window for about a day.
Then I changed my view, called Karl the mechanic and agreed to pay Volvo spare parts £100 for a small clip that had snapped behind the handle. ‘Happy now?’ I asked the car, after Karl brought it back. ‘Happy, for now,’ it said.