Saturday, 7 August 2010

Dude, Where's My Boot Button?

A certain level of apparent "psychic" ability runs in my family -- in an old-fashioned phrase, my mother was sometimes referred to by friends and relatives as "a bit of a gypsy". This didn't mean she had a yearning for the itinerant life, or a flair for wild dancing with a tambourine, but that she seemed to know things she had no means or business to know. I have inherited something of this gift of insight, and have a particular talent for finding lost things.

A classic instance occurred this week. When I arrived at work on Thursday morning, I parked the car and went through my usual routine: check the windows are closed, get out, shut the door, lock the car, walk round the back, test the boot is shut and locked, walk away from the car. But when I reached for the release button on the rear hatch (we have a Renault Scenic -- great car) it wasn't there.

The hole where it had been was there, but the button which operates the catch wasn't in the hole. Some bastard had clearly tried to force the boot during the night, and failed, but damaged the release button and probably thrown it away.

When I got to my office I rang home. Could someone look around the front drive for an oblong-ish green plastic button? There was no sign of it. Could it have just, you know, fallen off? This seemed unlikely to me, but I trudged back over to the car park to look around. As a habitual early arriver, I tend to park in roughly the same place every day, so I crawled around looking around and under cars. No luck. Though you'd be surprised how much car-related debris accumulates in a typical car park.

At that point my "psychic" logic circuits kicked in. Alright. OK. Let's say it did fall off. What would make it fall off? Maybe going over a bump. Had I driven over any noticeable bumps? Why, yes -- yesterday evening before going home I had driven slightly too fast down a road that passes through the campus on the way to get a birthday card for my daughter, and taken several of the "traffic calming" bumps in over-dramatic style. Worth a look? Why not?

So I went over to the other side of the campus and walked along the kerb, looking for an oblong-ish green button. About half way down I spotted an oddly-shaped black plastic object lying in the kerb, a little like the innards of a plastic toy. Psychic bells went off. It was not the oblong-ish green button I was looking for, but something about its shape echoed the recessed holes which I had been prodding with a key in an attempt to open the boot. I looked closer. Small shards of green plastic were lying around. I knew I had found it.

Now, I'm not a great believer in psychic powers. But I am a great believer in a power possessed in a high degree by certain varieties of the human mind which enables us to assemble cues and clues and probabilities into mental projections which are such good simulacra of real-life scenarios that they have a weird habit of matching reality. Not everyone can do this. It's a facility like hitting a golf ball with uncannily consistent accuracy, or doing complex maths in your head. No big deal, but if you have lost your keys, I'm the man to find them. No pendulums or dowsing rods required.

You may raise logical objections ("What about all the times you don't find the keys?"), but the point, of course, is that I did find the boot button, and usually do find the keys. Most people would have given up at an early stage, or considered the complexities too overwhelming -- it could have been flung down the street by a late night vandal, it could have fallen off anywhere along the 3 mile journey home or into work. Why even bother to look? But, as so often in the past, I projected myself into an imagined reality, and returned clutching the prize.

Even if it had been run over several times in the meantime...


Dave Leeke said...

I was a bit taken aback by the phrase "Renault Scenic - great car".

Obviously our Friday afternoon jobbie made a different impact on us.

AA man:Bloody French cars. We take more of these off the road than any other.
Me: Which other ones do you take off a lot of?
AAM: French ones. Renaults and Peugeots.
Me: What ones do you take off the least?
AAM: Toyotas.

I now drive a Toyota Avensis. Not as well appointed but (touch wood) more reliable.

The turbo went, the automatic handbrake, the windows, the on-board computer etc, etc . . .

Mike C. said...

Well, a great car off which bits have started to fall. We've had it for six or so years now, and it's taken us round France several times and out to Wales more than several times without complaint.

Our other car is a Ford Fiesta which we confiscated from the Prof's parents even longer ago, and is still chugging along. Maybe we're just lucky with cars.


Dave Leeke said...

There's a long story as to why we ended up with one - I won't bore you with the details. I know many fellow travellers who have enjoyed owning them - I mentioned tonight that I missed the "beep beep" when reversing.

Oh well, they're only ways of getting from A to B, I guess. So, Suffolk to Cornwall, then . . .

Mike C. said...

Yours sounds like it was a lot fancier, with more hi-tech stuff to go wrong -- ours is a 2002 model, bought used.

I have a low turnover of cars -- I passed my test in 1984 and have owned 5 cars since then, 6 if you count one which only lasted 6 weeks before falling apart.