Operation Auckland Part Two: Battling Murphy’s Law

Day Nine. The big day dawned, today was the first day that my van would be up for sale. I awoke bright and early, making sure again that all of my things that I was keeping were out. I had been allowed to leave my things in a utility room behind the manager’s office, so I didn’t have to haul everything around the city with me. It was booked in for nine thirty that morning and it was a half an hour drive into the city, I gave myself an extra fifteen minutes to cope with possible traffic and the likelihood of getting lost. Well, I had only driven to the place once and from a different direction, so anything was possible. Happy that everything was how I wanted it to be shown, including the great big cardboard sign that I had written up using marker pens, I jumped into the drivers’ seat and turned the key. The starter motor turned as usual, but the engine refused to fire. I repeated the exercise, to no avail. I pleaded with it, patting the dashboard as if it was a good dog, no response. I changed tact and swore at it, thumping the steering wheel and threatened it with imminent scrapping at the nearest dump, but there was no starting it. I jumped out and kicked the wheel, then tried again to see if that helped, but no. Why oh why oh why did this have to happen today of all days? It had been working, it fired up after I had changed the spark plugs and it’s not been raining since. I hadn’t even moved it since then so what could possibly have changed? All the years of watching my Dad fix my old Mini and telling me what to do when and what happens if streamed through my brain. I had never worked on anything other than old Minis, and had a sinking feeling that the knowledge wouldn’t transfer over to a comparatively modern, Japanese, people carrier. I had done all that I could do, so I did the one thing that owning an old Mini had taught me, I called the AA. When I hung up, a text message informed me I had only four minutes of call time remaining. I attempted to top up over the phone, but my card was refused because they didn’t accept magical beans as payment. I called the car market, “Your call is important to us, please hold.” I think the lady at the other end only heard me shout “…phone!” when she answered; as I shouted “Answer the bloody…” over the top of the Muzak version of Greensleeves. I explained the situation to her as quickly as I could, in my best version of BBC English so my accent wouldn’t get in the way. Mercifully, my booking could be carried over to a different day, if need be. I hung up and the text message after told me two minutes remained. I also noticed that the charge on the battery was getting low, and I was just about to put it on charge when the phone rang. The AA man was only at the end of the road, I dashed to see if I could see him.

I told him all about the spark plugs and rain and everything I thought was relevant. After I had helped him get to the engine bay under the seats, I waited as he began to prod and poke. He turned the key occasionally but got no result. I noticed I was pacing back and forth like an expectant father and told myself to stop, choosing instead to tap my heels together and try to peer over his shoulder. He carried on fidgeting with things for a good half an hour, before giving up. “It should start, everything is there, spark, fuel, air. There’s just no bang. I don’t know what it could be.” Well, I could have told him that. He thought it could be electrical, so advised that I took it to an auto-electrician the next day, as today was still a bank holiday. He told me that he would book a tow truck to pick it up in the morning, he gave me a card with the number of the garage it would be taken too. As he drove away I stood, staring daggers into the side of the van.

Day Ten. The tow truck came at eight on the dot, which was fine except I was sure the AA man had told me eight thirty and I hadn’t had a shower or breakfast. I told him it was a none starter and that he’d have to winch it onto the flatbed. I jumped into the cab and off we went.

The garage had no idea that we were on our way; because I had forgotten to call them in advance,(It was one of the things I was going to do after I’d showered.) but the tow truck driver dropped it off in the middle of their garage, so they had to deal with it. I explained the problem to the chap in the overalls, he pointed me in the direction of the reception so I could fill out some details for them. The keys were in the ignition, whilst I was talking to the receptionist (name, address, blood group, satanic allegiance? Yes / no.) I heard an engine fire up. Finishing with the nosey woman, I dashed back to find the van had started. What was the problem, I asked the miracle worker sat in the drivers’ seat. He shrugged his shoulders, “I don’t know, it just started when I turned the key.” He switched it off, then turned the key again. It started at the first touch as if nothing was wrong. I asked what it could have been, he shook his head. “If the problem isn’t there, we can’t fix it.” He connected a diagnostic gadget to a doodah under the steering wheel, “Let’s see if it’ll talk to the computer, maybe that’ll know.” After several seconds of the van and computer exchanging digital pleasantries, the result flashed up on his screen. ‘No error found, system normal.’ He made a some of the same checks that the AA bloke had made, just to look useful and to make sure that he’d worked the full fifteen minutes that he charged me for, doing nothing and solving nought. Since it was working now, I decided to make hay whilst the sun was shining and headed for the car market.

On the motorway, I could see the petrol gauge nearing the empty mark. It should’t have used almost a quarter of a tank in the thirty-five kilometres to the city? That was only about twenty miles in real money (21.7, now I look it up), it can’t be drinking petrol that quickly? It was. I pulled off the motorway and found a petrol station just as the engine coughed and the needle was hanging off the bottom of the gauge. I paid for a splash in the tank, got behind the wheel and only breathed again when it fired up.

It was raining by the time I made it to the Backpackers Car Market, the entrance to which was up a short steep ramp covered in oil and wet with rain. No problem for the four wheel drive though, straight up and in. A trio of thoroughly bored looking people sat on a settee that had been put out for sellers to sit on by a drinks machine, should they wish to wait until anyone looked at their vehicle. I cursed myself for not remembering to bring my book, thinking I too would be sat there soon. I was told where to park and set about putting up my homemade sign post and setting things out for display. I had just put the finishing touches to everything when a blonde girl approached. “May we take a look?” I said please do. I answered her questions, finding out she was Dutch and travelling with her brother, looking for a camper and oh my gosh aren’t they expensive? When they had finished poking around; they asked for a test drive, a quick blast around the block. Since they weren’t insured, I would be driving. They jumped in, I gave a silent prayer and turned the ignition. It fired up and away we went, I sensed sheer hatred emanating from the people still waiting on the sofa as I pulled past them, barely ten minutes after I’d pulled in. My passengers asked me all the questions usual in buying a car, had I had any problems and all that (I said no, who was I to argue with two professional motor engineers and a computer that found no errors?). Then came the one I had been expecting “How is the fuel economy?” I explained that I don’t know it in metric, being from England we use miles and gallons and I had never really thought about it. (On the trip from Christchurch to Auckland I worked it out at 18mpg, or 6 km per litre. A brand new Jaguar sports car gets 10 km per litre.) This seemed to placate them so I changed the subject by mentioning the great air conditioning. They seemed happy, we’d started talking money, I only had to pull back up the big ramp into the car market. I turned in in the usual way, put my foot on the gas, only for it to lose power on the ramp. There was no grunt whatsoever. Ha ha ha, I said, look there is a load of oil and water we’re slipping on. I’ll try again. The second time was no better. I explained that I didn’t want to go fast as there was a sharp tight turn to make at the top and I didn’t want to damage it for them. Besides they had to go to the cash machine any way, I’ll have got it parked for when they get back. They agreed and off they went for the cash, a hole in the wall at the end of the road. I sat facing the ramp, without their weight and now that I turned off the air con, it should be just like before. I gunned the engine and rode straight up the ramp and into the garage.

They insisted on a mechanical check, I had to agree and try not to look worried. It started again for the man doing the inspection and it sailed through, needing only three new tyres they had already noticed. When the cash fell into my sweaty hands, I felt a Nissan sized weight lift from my shoulders. It had served me bloody well, I had asked a lot of it and it had not let me down, but why did it have to start playing up on me then? When I headed back to base, (the owners had kindly let me sleep on a sofa bed in the telly room) I noticed the battery on my phone was dead, but it was useless anyway because of lack of credit. I pondered on my luck as the bus near it’s destination. It was then that I noticed that the answer may be in the name of the pub nearest to the campsite, an Irish Bar of all things called ‘Murphy’s Law.’

I’ve booked myself onto one of the tourist buses, the cost of a rental car was near scandalous. Let’s see how things go with the next part of the adventure!

Mini Count :- 34

Again, no Follow Me! because of poor internet connection. Sorry!


About Steven R Harrison

Greetings! Thank you for having a look at my blog. On here you will find my epic adventure around New Zealand that I undertook in 2011-12, now available to buy with more pictures and in hard back entitled 'Blogs, Bikes & Jelly Beans' from Lulu.com and Amazon. Since returning to Blighty I have been writing my next novel, Attack of the Atomic Airships, which will soon be available to buy from all the usual channels. For now though, since my travelling days are 'on hold' for the time being, I hope you will enjoy some 'Flash Fiction,' that is, fiction of around 1000 words or less. The subjects are varied, but usually gravitate toward SF. The first one is called Continue? Yes / No. I hope you enjoy it!
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