Well this is the latest in an occasional series highlighting some very awkward red-faced moments in my life. I was reminded of it watching one of those blooper shows on tv earlier today and I promise you it’s absolutely true and very wet….
Picture the scene; it was the late 70’s and we were living in Wood Green in N London. C was at home with the kids (babies in those days) and I was driving back from where I worked at this huge international telephone exchange centre in Burnt Oak. It seems incredible now but I was Head of Security there (I know, can you think of anyone less likely to fit the role?). But it was a difficult time with all the IRA stuff and this site was a key strategic target, well potentially.
Anyway, after yet another incident-free day – it was almost always like this – I was heading home slowly along the dreaded North Circular in our Ford Capri. We’d had the car since being at University and it was really on its last legs. One of the security guards who worked for me, Kenny Lovindeer, did a bit of a car mechanics in his spare time and he was doing wonders keeping the old Capri roadworthy especially as things were beginning to fail on a pretty regular basis.
I hadn’t washed the car for some time, however with Kenny having just completed his latest little miracle of engine rescue, I thought I’d treat the thing to a car wash since I needed to fill up on petrol at our local petrol station. It was busy as ever during the evening rush hour and there was a bit of a queue for the automated car wash. But eventually it came to my turn and I headed in, pulled on the handbrake, switched the engine off and wound the window down (no electrics in those days!) so I could press the start button.
The machine whirred into life – there was a second or two grace with the old machines before the water jets kicked in to allow you to close the window. I started to turn the winder to raise the window and as it felt a bit stiff I gave it a stiff yank. You’re probably ahead of me now. Not only did the bloody handle come away from its door fixing but the sodding pane of glass just dropped into the bowels of the door. I’d only gone and broken the whole window mechanism. Aw shit.
My first instinct was to re-start the car and drive out of there but the large mechanical water jets had already swung in front of the car whilst the huge brushes were already swooshing their way around the back of the car. Aggh. Next thought was to step out of the car but the jets were already up to full speed and I figured I’d get absolutely soaked if I did that and horse whipped by the brushes. So there was nothing for it but to sit it out and try and minimise the effects to myself and the insides of the car. Ha! I had an evening paper and held this up to the open window, rather hopefully. I could sense the guy behind me looking on with interest and thought the newspaper trick would a) not only prove an effective barrier but b) also make me look rather cool and nonchalant amidst a tiny drama.
Have you any idea how much water those jets throw out? The newspaper disintegrated in seconds. The strands of the brushes were now starting to lash inside the window frame. In desperation I reached down for the rubber floor mat and held it up as best as possible against the tsunami coming in through the window. I could just see a small crowd of folk now in my rear view window pointing and looking on in amusement.
The first pass wasn’t too bad – it was watery but mostly soapy. There was a brief respite as the huge brushes reached the front of the car but then came the second pass with the soap-free rinse down. About 50 gallons were heading my way. The rubber mat was too floppy to provide any real protection but it didn’t do a bad job and as the brushes headed back to their rest position I fired the car into life and headed out as quickly as possible. I wasn’t about to be humiliated by stopping to look at the damage in the garage forecourt – I just headed for home.
I parked the car and swept into the house rather than risk bumping into a neighbour. I walked up the stairs and into the dining room/kitchen area where I could hear C and the girls. I walked in and C just couldn’t believe it. I hadn’t realised it but I was completely drenched down one side but my suit and clothes were pretty dry on my left hand side. The line separating dry from wet went straight down my body. I looked like a before and after character from a launderette ad . Not for the first, nor the last time, was I the cause of much laughter and hilarity in my own home.
Ah well. If you’ve experienced similar moments of embarrassment let me know