Ward’s World: Car park encounter with two dipsticks - by John Ward

Life through the eyes of madcap inventor John Ward.
Life through the eyes of madcap inventor John Ward.
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With time to spare as I was waiting in the car for A N Other, I decided that as I was in a level supermarket car park, I would check the level of the oil in the engine as it had cooled down – the engine – and, being on said level ground, the reading on the dipstick would be more accurate.

True, I had not put on a Hi-Vis jacket or donned the double glazed safety goggles/ glasses or the three-inch-thick rubber protective gauntlets or, horror of all horrors, not filled in a Risk Assessment form beforehand, but regardless I still went ahead: “One life, just survive it,” I say.

This mere, humble process is quite simple and basic if you wish the engine to perform in the manner it’s been accustomed to, but another side to this procedure is that in so doing, you become a target, or an attraction, which is about and amounts to the same, but spelt differently, of course.

No sooner do you open the bonnet catch – it’s the thing that releases the bonnet bit on the front end of the car in case you wonder – chances are you may well hear a voice, of the male variety usually, but until results of the tests come back, assume it is male for now, and it will utter any one of the following:

“Problems?” [ ] “Has it conked out, then?” [ ] “Playing up, is it?” [ ].

You will note I have put a little box after each “intro” for you to put a tick in, or, if it’s been a real bad time, you can put a tick in all of them.

If you are really, really unlucky, he may have other similar sayings for openers, but the aforementioned are some of the more popular among the IBB, or the Interfering Busybody Brigade.

Back to the nosey interfering “expert”, who will introduce himself in this manner and then go on to describe how he had the same problem or, even worse, his brother did as well and it took ages to get it sorted, but bearing in mind you have not said anything as to why you have the bonnet up at this point, it’s handy to know he and the rest of the similar-minded folk had the “same trouble”, real or otherwise, and this is part of the mystique of being a vehicle owner.

The biggest mistake is to say you are just checking your oil level, as this is completely off their compass and beyond their understanding as, if they don’t do this, or “the man in the garage who sold it to me checked it when I bought it three years ago, so it must still be okay”, then why are you doing it?

Perhaps they prefer the death rattle as the engine grinds to a halt, starved of its life blood as in that stuff called, well, oil.

Before you laugh, I had a neighbour once this happened to, as while he knew how to hang the furry dice up on the rear view mirror and how the ker-boom, ker-boom stereo worked with all windows open, the fact oil goes in the engine was beyond him, but he did say he noticed the bright red light on the dashboard glowing for ages, followed by a large, expensive, bang-noise from under the bonnet or, in his language, the bass went real big and awesome, like.

As I started off by explaining, within mere milliseconds of opening the bonnet I had my very own self-nominated soothsayer next to me, and his opener was: “See you’re having a bit of bad luck, then” and in a manner of speaking, he was on the ball as he had appeared to interfere, so saying “bad luck” was about right, all things considered.

Now it’s decision time. Do I tell him to clear off, or do I have some entertainment and have scope to write about the incident? As you are reading this now, I think you will have worked that one out.

I explained that I was merely checking my oil level as I would like to think the engine will last longer if it’s got some oil it to keep its innards lubricated, and I said I looked upon oil in a car engine as like blood in our bodies, being pumped around, with the heart being the engine – now how difficult is that to perceive or comprehend?

Despair sprang to mind. He has a relation (yup, there are more of them, it seems) who “went in” for open heart surgery and now has to take things easy, but he failed to say whether the “went in” bit was as in a hospital or garage, but best not to ask, I felt.

And as I pulled the dipstick out from the engine and wiped it on a small cloth I keep under the bonnet for such tasks, he did spoketh: “Have you had it long?”

I looked at him (it was a free option) as he never followed it up by asking how long I had the car or the dipstick, so I said I once had a Ford Cortina that went through oil like nobody’s business and I had to get a longer dipstick made so it could reach the oil.

This was met with – you guessed it – “My brother had the same happen to him you know.”

I looked skywards and asked once again: “Why me, Lord, why me all the while?”

By now I am wondering and looking around to see if there are any hidden cameras about, as in some bizarre form of “Candid Camera” TV show that I might not be aware of – yet.

Nope, it all seems pretty clear as best I can tell, but there is the nagging doubt...

Speaking of nagging, a lady appears laden with shopping bags and shouts at my new-found imbecile, her hubby no less: “So this is where you’ve got to! I told you to wait by the main doors! This shopping is dammed heavy! And those cheapo baked beans are not on offer any more, the ones you can hear rattling in the tin, so you will have to have their expensive ones – and where have you parked the car, anyway?”

Consideration was shown in my direction, too, as she looked at my car, then at me, and spoke again: “What are you doing with that big, messy lump, anyway?”

I replied that I thought it was her husband – or had he not let on to her?

I hope the baked beans, with or without the rhythm section, met his expectations, anyway.