How the C&SC car park and Casualty are sort of related

| 26 Sep 2011

I normally steer clear of medical dramas on telly, but was passing through the lounge the other night when one was on. Basically, lots of people were in A&E needing treatment pretty urgently for broken bits or vases on the head and stuff when suddenly a bigger, better emergency came along. Apart from a lot of running around, sirens and curiously little swearing given the circumstances, the upshot was that the original lot of patients ended up on trolleys in corridors while the staff started repairing the more seriously injured people from the exploded gasworks, or whatever it was.

Then (who would have thought it?) an even more mighty emergency occurred (plane crash, I think), trumping even the last one. The original original (yes, I did mean to write that twice) patients then ended up on benches being completely ignored and looking like they would probably just die or heal naturally before they would get treated, while the victims of the first emergency slipped down the pecking order on to the trolleys, moaning and bleeding profusely all the while, and the people from the second emergency were moved into the beds and surrounded with the hospital team furiously fighting to save their lives.

Gazing at this overcrowded, understaffed portrayal of precisely how never to get on top of a grisly and ever-worsening situation, my thoughts turned immediately and naturally not the current malaise in the NHS, but to the C&SC worksop.

You see, at C&SC Towers we have an equivalent of "a month of Sundays", which is "a week of lunchtimes". That's because lunchtimes at the office are generally the only time most of us get to work on our cars, especially the people with young families (which is many of us).

There is a marvellous upside to this, which gives a real fillip to flagging spirits, and that is that the whole team tends to pitch in to help each other. It really is a morale booster to all set-to a car in so short a time just so a colleague can drive home in it that evening.

There is, of course, also a dreadful downside to this, which can really demoralise, and that is what happens when, as is inevitable, several cars need works at once.

Worst of all, there are times when most people are putting off urgent works on their own cars because someone else's entire fleet is ill (as is also inevitable seeing as we tend to buy at the, ahem, "cheaper" end of the market).

This has very much been the case of late. And the guilty party is… me.

At the moment we have Al's Whizzkid in the garage awaiting our attentions (would be nice to get on with it, but it's not an emergency according to Al), alongside Martin Port's Mini, which requires urgent brake fettling (would be an emergency if he weren't so infatuated with his Scimitar that the existence of all other cars has slipped his mind for the moment), my Triumph parked up round the back looking sorry for itself (needs some electrics on top of all the usual maladies, but mainly just needs to be used), plus my Elite hogging a valuable car park space for ages after its catastrophic MoT failure (most jobs done, one big one and some fiddly stuff to go).

So why aren't we getting on top of these classics? 

Well, we had started on the Elite (the exploded gasworks of a car that forced the other classics on to trolleys in the corridor) and then a bigger, better emergency came in: the Jensen (yup, mine again, the plane crash). 

After getting the fine art of changing a brake disc, pads and wheel-bearing down to 40 minutes on the fronts to try and solve the horribly pulsing pedal and Titanic-meeting-iceberg noises, I stupidly decided to tackle the rears. 

"A week of lunchtimes" later we still haven't separated the hub, despite the ministrations of four people, a butane torch, a scaffold pole, some jemmies, plus all the correct equipment, too.

I am getting pretty frustrated with it, to be honest, but most of all I am feeling guilty that so many other people (mainly Port and Rob Pittaway) are spending a disproportionate amount of their time on my car, time that they could be spending (and would probably prefer to be) sorting out their own classics or doing something frivolous like eating lunch.

Guilty, and terrified. Terrified that we might not get that hub off before one of the fleet usurps it by having the classic equivalent of a volcanic eruption and the Jensen ends up on its metaphorical trolley in its metaphorical corridor, never again to reach the top of the priority list.

So, just like "a month of Sundays" in the real world, it looks like "a week of lunchtimes" in C&SCville represents an unreasonable amount of time, the point at which a tantalising challenge becomes a tedious drag, the amount of time a job or project can vacuum up before it runs a serious risk of being sidelined, of exasperating the efforts and team spirit of the C&SC crew. 

No one (to my knowledge) actually counts and consciously tries to reclaim the hours they spend working on other people's cars, but if they did, I am running a deficit to rival the Greek banking system.