I received a call on my mobile phone last Saturday afternoon, it was one of our drivers, an excellent bloke, always friendly, good at his job and well-liked (unlike some!) at the company. He was clearly upset, and in a panic on this call.

I said: “slow down, take a deep breath and tell me what’s the matter,” which I assumed was work and vehicle-related. He surely wouldn’t have called on a Saturday afternoon for a personal problem (although in the past, some drivers have)!

He was driving his fairly new car, with the recent addition to the family in the rear-mounted baby seat. Anyway, she was crying uncontrollably, and in an effort to get home as soon as possible, he reached round and found she had spat out her dummy. He managed to locate the dummy on the back seat and put it in her mouth – all while driving. I’m not encouraging this driving behaviour, but we all do these things in moments of panic. 

Sadly, while he was searching for the dummy, his car hit a kerb, resulting in a big hole in the tyre. Thankfully, he was very close to a petrol filling station, so he got the car to safety, and looking at the huge hole in the tyre, he realised he wasn’t going anywhere, anytime soon. Anyway, he called the breakdown services who turned up an hour later, but the patrolman couldn’t find the ‘locking wheel nut” – better known as that little round thing to undo the wheel nut. They searched high and low, and everywhere it should be, it wasn’t. They tried calling the local dealer to get a spare ‘little round thing,’ but by then (Saturday afternoon!?!) the service department was closed and nothing more could be done. So, our driver locked the car, and got a lift home along with his daughter.

The breakdown recovery company, were in fairness to them, very good. They went to the dealer first thing Monday morning, then borrowed all the different removal tools – as one was bound to fit. It did, the wheel was changed, and when our driver went back and collected the car Monday lunchtime, all was well, although it took two days.

The dilemma for me, was whether to charge him £200 for the new tyre, or take pity on him, as he was having a difficult time. He was honest, he could simply have said he hit a big pothole, and that would have been very believable. But he didn’t want to tell fibs. He’d had a rotten weekend and adding a £200 bill onto his misery wasn’t going to help. There are two morals to this story, the first is obvious, don’t take your eyes off the road regardless of what is going on around you. Then, stop at the nearest and safest place. He was extremely lucky he only hit a kerb; it could have been much worse. Finally, make sure you have a locking wheel nut in the car, so ask your drivers to check!

On another note, I’m beginning to wonder if some service receptionists are going to the same ‘take a large intake of breath, and shake your head’ school that GP receptionists seem to attend. 

We are finding getting a car booked in for anything is like getting a doctor’s appointment, and the reaction from both is very similar. “No can’t do anything this week, there’s nothing available, but there might be something in around two to three weeks.” One of our cars had what the driver described as a ‘funny feeling every time they pressed the brake pedal,’ which seemed to go ‘up and down’. With my limited mechanical knowledge, I decided it needed looking at sooner rather than in a month’s time. However, getting it booked in was almost impossible! When they could look at it, our salesperson had an ‘important’ meeting. Then, when he was free, of course nothing was available at the garage! Remember, this appointment was for an inspection, not to do the work! I realise garages are extremely busy, but they must understand we have a duty of care, and ensure our vehicles are in a roadworthy and safe condition.

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