I’ve Got A Flat

In British English, the above headline means “I have an apartment”. In American English, it means “I have a flat tire”. Well, you’re right on both.

I don’t know what it is. But are car tyres generally of worse quality today, or have we completely gone mad when it comes to chucking debris all around us? For the first 15 years or so of holding a driver’s license, I only had a flat tyre three times. Two were on ancient tyres that surprised me by holding out for as long as they did. And oh yes, there was one other that never blew, but where the cord had split and would have blown up on me any moment. But apart from that, nothing.

Since moving to Belgium in 2004, I have now had four flat tyres. But my boss, who lives in the West of Sweden, seems to have had the same experiences lately, with tyres going like balloons on a kiddies’ birthday party.

In at least two of my cases, nails have been involved. (And no, they did NOT come from my garage floor.) On one of the latest, we discovered at least three or four nails when the tyre was removed from the rim. So what’s going on here?

Either we have a fierce and foul competitor, who is conspiring against us at Foodwire and blowing our tyres at night. Or the tyre industry has decided that we all change tyres too seldom, and have collectively impaired their quality accordingly. (Any anti-cartel authority out there reading this?)

Or we have just all become careless when it comes to littering.

Oh bother.

Uncomfortably Numb

Yesterday, I changed a headlight bulb on my car. It took me one hour and included a visit to the car brand’s local garage.

Don’t get me wrong; I pride myself of having some technical skill, especially in the field of cables and connectors, being an ex-radio reporter and all. I have changed more lightbulbs than I can remember on various cars, and have indeed done far more complicated maintenance jobs than that. But it seems that my capacity for do-it-yourself maintenance is coming to an abrupt end as cars are so rapidly becoming so advanced that even simple tasks become a challenge.

Indeed, there are already cars on the market where you literally cannot change a headlight bulb yourself; only the garage has the necessary tools and skills. On my particular car, it is technically possible, but you almost have to detach the battery first, which means that you have to re-program the radio afterwards, and who knows what else. And then its only a 2001. On the newest model of the same car, I was told at the garage which helped me with the embarrassingly simple task, you must lift the battery out first.

It reminds me of a car I had once, where, in order to replace the fan belt, you were required to first lift the whole engine out. No kidding.

On the horizon are cars where the whole engine compartment is sealed, and where you can only reach nozzles for topping up various fluids. But while we let ourselves be lulled into this state of comfortable numbness of having Mr Expert et consortes taking care of all the routine tasks for us, the obvious question arises: What if you need to fix something by the roadside, late at night, in the dark and perhaps cold, while your exhausted and hungry kids are crying inside because we never seem to get to where we’re going? And Mr Expert is closed for the day, the weekend, the week, the holidays, or the season? Or miles and miles away?

I would be less worried if this development was accompanied by a corresponding increase in quality, so that you didn’t have to fix things… but let’s just say that there is somewhat of a discrepancy between the two and leave it at that.