It was about 9.30pm when I landed in Townsville and I’d been up since 3am local time.
The theft of my laptop at Christchurch earlier in the day hadn’t helped my mood and I was very keen to get to where I was staying, have a shower and go to sleep.
I’d booked a rental car on-line but even so the paperwork took a while and it was about 10pm by the time I got to the car park.
The remote didn’t work and it was too dark to see well enough to figure out if there was a trick to it so I used the key. It unlocked the door but when I opened it the alarm started. I shut the door and the alarm stopped but I still couldn’t get the remote to work.
I used the key and again the alarm went off but it stopped when I put the key in the ignition.
I checked the hand brake was on and the gear stick in neutral and turned the key. The dashboard lit up but the engine didn’t start. I checked the hand brake and gear stick and tried again. It still didn’t start.
I returned to the terminal for help but the rental car kiosk had closed. I went back to the car and rang the 24 hour rescue number. The woman who answered said it would take 45 minutes for someone to come & I’d have to wait at the main entrance to the terminal. I asked if I could speak to the mechanic, in case it was something simple I was or wasn’t doing, but she said no.
I told her in that case it would be better to get a taxi and worry about the car in the morning.
I got my case out of the boot, locked the car and walked to the taxi rank. But my flight had been the last one for the night and all the taxis had gone.
I returned to the car, rang the rescue number again and was told again I’d have to wait at the main entrance and that would take about 45 minutes. Had I not been a big girl I might have cried at this point. Instead I took a deep breath and explained I’d been up for more than 19 hours, I was very tired and I wasn’t very comfortable about standing round in the dark by myself for that long, couldn’t the mechanic come to the car?
She said no, it was better to wait at the door. I said, I didn’t think it was and asked again if I could talk to the mechanic. She said no, but given it was dark and the airport was closed she’d tell him to come to the car.
While waiting for him I read the instruction manual and came across a page entitled car immobilised. That seemed to be the correct diagnosis for my predicament but the only prescription was to call a mechanic.
He eventually turned up and listened to my explanation of the problem. He said the car might be immobilised, but there was one simple thing to try first. He slid into the driver’s seat, put his foot on the clutch, turned the key and the car started.
I was tempted to say something more than a little stronger than bother. Instead I asked, how could I have been so stupid?
He just laughed, said I wasn’t the first one who’d had this problem and explained that with modern cars it’s not enough to have them in neutral, they’re designed not to start unless there’s a foot on the clutch in case they’re in gear.
Putting my hand up for idiot of the day again – but could I plead tiredness as an excuse?