A month ago we booked our car in for an MOT with the local garage. After two weeks of inaction and indifference, they gave us a courtesy car. Last Sunday it broke down on the huge mountain pass called The Rest and Be Thankful half way to Glasgow from the huts. Steve was on his way to instruct a sailing course for a week in Largs – he had to hitch and take two buses with all his gear. No biggy, but annoying.
I called the garage the following day and explained – we would return the key when Steve got home. Fine, the nice lady said – these things happen. And the good news was – our Volvo was ready for collection. Hurray! I would collect it on my way back from Bristol the next day. Seven o’clock that same evening the garage owner phones me: unless we somehow returned the courtesy car key we could sing for our car – and then he put the phone down. Steve was at sea for a week. We’d been waiting for our car for three weeks.
I was soo amazed and angry that when I got back to the huts yesterday, I found our spare key and caught the bus back up to Lochgilphead. I know they keep cars in the carpark opposite the garage; I’d take it home – it was my car. But it wasn’t there. On my way back to the bus stop to wait an hour for the bus back to Tarbert, I walked past the garage .
Although it was two hours after closing time, the entrance was still open and some lights still on. Our car was parked at the back, maybe thirty yards away. I felt immediately terrified. I knew if I thought about it too long, I’d never do it – I’m far too scared of confrontation but I was damned if…
I crept past the office, where someone was reading a paper – OMG – I was sooo scared. I write about hammering chests (well, without the cliche obvs) but seldom do I feel my own. The car was unlocked and I saw our key in the ignition. It was irresistible at that point. I didn’t even have to stop my hands shaking long enough to get the spare in the hole. I opened the door really quietly, expecting a mechanic, or worse – the abusive owner, to appear any second. Would I duck out of sight and risk getting locked in for the night or face an ugly scene? Was this new me capable of picking up the car jack and whacking the thwarter of my thrilling plan over the head? Well maybe – honestly, I was not myself. And what if the car didn’t start? It often doesn’t start and we have to unlock and lock it a few times – it can take a few tries. Very quirky. The office person would have heard the engine turning, the clicks of the locking system and seen the lights flash on and off.
I actually can’t quite believe I did it – even though it was my car, even though they’d behaved abominably, I felt I was stealing a very valuable thing and something very bad would happen any second now. Someone might shoot me!
She started first time. I almost whooped – it seemed sooo brilliant – too good to be true! I swear I will never ever wish she wasn’t so red or had heated seats like our old one, or call her names when she doesn’t start…
I put my foot down and roared out of the garage, really, just like they do in those films I usually don’t like, and met their breakdown lorry at the entrance, (which was why it was open, of course). Two seconds later I would have been trapped but I powered through the gap as it took a wide swing, and didn’t stop shaking and smiling and worrying that the car behind me was a police car or the horrible garage owner’s car until I was home half an hour later. I even drove past our drive and stopped in case they stopped too (they didn’t thank god) – and rang Steve and told him what I’d done.
I sent them an email. I had the car, I said, email the invoice and I’ll pay it – but they’d called the police and said it had been stolen… Luckily the police called Steve who filled them in.
Our huts are not easy to find – we’ve never ever had an unknown visitor late at night. If I’d seen torches outside without knowing who it was at eleven pm, I’d probably have fled to the woods.
As it was, it was a good ending – the nice police lady seemed mildly amused.
The last time I remember feeling so thrillingly scared was when I got away with carrying a polythene bag full of mescaline to India (almost half a century ago). But that’s another story, and perhaps one you don’t want to hear.