The government attempts to interfere in every trivial aspect of our lives, they tell us how many calories we can consume, the units of alcohol we are allowed to have and what temperature we must wash our clothes. Every year, whether it be a heat wave or a snowstorm, the boys in Whitehall release some patronising statement telling us to adapt our heating accordingly to prevent certain death. It’s infuriating. We are spoon-fed advice left, right and centre, but surprisingly I think I have found one feature of life they fail to lecture us on.
The Highway Code stresses that lights, indicators, reflectors, number plates, windscreens and windows MUST be kept clean and clear at all times. This is jolly sensible advice indeed, but were you ever told about HOW exactly to keep your car clean when learning to drive? I certainly wasn’t. The Highway Code says nothing about how to go about this, which I find staggering in a country where common sense takes a back seat and we are given emergency notices to drink water when the mercury soars and people drive into the sea because their satnav tells them to.
Keeping your vehicle clean is a hazardous business and it became clear to me recently that the Highway Code needs to be updated. Fast.
Last week, after forgetting the original colour of my car, I decided it was time to take it for a long awaited trip to the car wash. At the particular establishment I chose, the old, rusty looking car wash had been taken out of action years ago and replaced by some sturdy looking eastern European men in tracksuit bottoms. As I pulled into the tired looking forecourt, a few cars were lined up being buffed by teenagers with scruffy chamois leathers. There wasn’t much room for me to join the back of this queue, but with everyone watching, I hastily conducted an elaborate manoeuvre to fit me snugly behind the last car. I had but a moment to be proud of my skilful move before I saw a gruff Polish man, who politely informed me of my mistake. It turned out that while the old automatic car wash was no longer used round the back, the area was still where there cars were washed with hand held jets, after which you would drive through, placing you exactly where I had just parked with great difficulty. I had indeed joined the queue at the car wash, but unfortunately I had missed out the car wash itself.
Red faced, I withdrew from my position in the line to join in the more conventional place, at the start. Feeling foolish and flustered I then realised I had lost one of the ten pound coins I had carefully designated to pay for the service. With no other means to pay, I frantically searched every nook and cranny of my car for the missing change, finding some interesting things, but no coin. I was then suddenly confronted by a very angry looking man at my windscreen telling me to hurry up and move along into the jet wash area; at least I think that’s what he said as his screaming wasn’t in English. After a few minutes of panic and scrambling, whilst sheepishly trying not to make eye contact with the irritated gentleman washing my car, I eventually found my lost change. In my pocket. My sense of relief and triumph was short-lived, however, as I was once again confronted by the angry man striking my windscreen with his disturbingly huge hands. For reasons I cannot explain I then mistook his gestures as a signal to turn on my windscreen wipers, which is what I did. This was a big mistake, as the screen was perfectly clear for me to see the rage on his face as the wiper blade struck his obviously numb, cold fingers. Needless to say I hastily paid another member of staff and was quick to leave.
Driving back, I cringed at my level of calamity. How could it have been so difficult? A simple task and I came away feeling like Basil Fawlty. A fool, an idiot. I could have been saved this embarrassment, however, if I had been guided through these steps in the Highway Code. I like to think of myself as an intelligent person, I tend to shun the advice of the nanny state as condescending drivel and am very much in favour of thinking for yourself. I escaped the perils of car cleanliness with only my pride and dignity damaged, yet I fear for those of those more cognitively challenged than me. I don’t want to be told what to do any more than the next person, but after my recent incident, I’m afraid I might need to be.