Monday, June 23, 2008


On Saturday I took the new The Flatmate out car shopping. Being a new arrival in this country, and looking down the barrel of a big fat mining industry pay packet, he’s in the market for something swish.

He was very enamoured with a 2001 Saab 93 Aero convertible, in black with a black leather interior. It had heated seats, which frankly in Australia is about as useful as a chest freezer in an igloo, but still it was a beautiful car, sleek of shape and low of mileage and reasonable of price.

However it also came with a salesman who seemed to have been recently brought in from a personnel agency specialising in clichés. He was in his 40s, with a slightly too bouffant flat top hairstyle and a shiny grey suit, wearing more gold than is usually considered decent on a man. Watch, ring, bracelet, tie pin – there are Indian brides who wear less gold. There might have been excuses if he’d been excessively ethnic, but he was as WASPy as the father from a 50s sitcom. More than anything, it was his oiliness that prevented The Flatmate from being seduced into signing a deal for his black beauty there and then.

But car shopping with The Flatmate has made me itch for a new set of wheels myself. I like my Golf, but it’s an underpowered automatic that doesn’t even come close to resembling a sports car, despite being a two door convertible. So while The Flatmate drooled all over his Saab, I expressed a mild lust for two Mazda MX5s. One was an astonishingly glossy cherry red with a black interior, obviously well cared for and loved… but it had 237,000kms on the odometer, which meant that it was not long for this world. The other was the same age but rendered in a cool silver, with only 113,000kms on the odometer. Sadly it was an automatic, and an automatic MX5 may as well be fitted with a giant sign reading GIRL’S CAR, in flashing pink neon. It also had a few dings and scratches, and some other unusual failings:

Different salesman: She’s a beauty, isn’t she?

Me: Yes. But isn’t it supposed to have two windscreen wipers?

Different salesman: Er, I guess. I hadn’t noticed that before.

It makes one wonder what else might be missing without attracting the notice of the car yard. I didn’t want to look in the engine bay just in case I found a big oil-spattered void with a little note saying “Back in 10 minutes”.


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