Lost simplicity

yorkshire 005

My car has been hauled off to some unknown destination. I said a proper goodbye with some sadness… just in case she doesn’t make it home again. Judging by the puddle beneath the radiator, it wouldn’t surprise me if the goodbye was final… or perhaps she was weeping too. Possibly in green-eyed frustration at the great, shiny beast that was sitting in her accustomed place before the lorry even took her away.

Both recovery vehicle and loan car came at the same time, so the changeover was smooth and gave me little time for reflection. I was too busy thinking where I could find a booster cushion so I could reach the pedals… After having adjusted the seat in every way I could think of, I am still an inch or two short of comfort. I can see me padding it with pillows so I can sit on the edge of the seat. It won’t be the first time.

I’d even had to have a false floor built in my first Mini. Not only are the legs short, but the feet are small too, so even if I can reach the pedals, I place the heel on the floor and there is wiggle room between toe and pedal. The only car I have ever been able to say really fit my challenged verticality was the MR2. This one might as well be built for giants. And it feels like I’m driving a tank.

“They’re built for humans…” I was informed. From a safe distance. Like… a couple of hundred miles…

I wouldn’t mind, I used to drive one of these things for work… thousands of relatively comfortable miles… but the older model was smaller, with pedals more accessible to little short legs. And it didn’t try and do anything without me.

This one does. It has a mind of its own… a computer. Since when has the internal combustion engine needed a computer? “Suck, squeeze, bang, blow”… it shouldn’t need to be more complicated than that. Nor should you have to wait for a car to reboot before you can turn on the ignition. Even then, it won’t start unless you have pressed everything you are supposed to press, fastened everything and basically done as the car tells you. Which somehow seems wrong… I thought it was supposed to be the other way round.

Opening the bonnet feels like delving into completely unknown territory…I wouldn’t know where to start with maintenance on this thing… I can’t even identify half the bits. So much for learning my way around.

And the clutch bites like a rabid dog, whereas mine is worn silky smooth. Okay, it needs replacing… but honestly, this thing is vicious!

With the Mini, I had dutifully stripped the elderly engine down to learn about how it worked before putting it back together again. I had replaced the valves… grinding them, to my mentor’s horror, on the end of an electric drill instead of gently and by hand. Oven cleaner and Brillo pads had seemed a reasonable solution to years of oil leaks and carbon and my mentor nearly had a heart attack when he found me boiling the brakes in detergent to remove spilled oil… but it worked.

“You know how to put it in gear, don’t you?” The nice gentleman who delivered it was trying to be helpful… I’ve driven most things from sports cars to vans and lorries. Yes, I could probably manage to put it in gear… unless I had to put in a carefully worded request in triplicate these days rather than shift the stick.

I know that the older engines are not fuel efficient. I know they needed to be upgraded, updated and preferably replaced with something less damaging to the environment. I have to wonder if that would not have been a better direction for the designers to take, though, than seeing how much they could out-do each other in sticking extra knobs, lights and curlicues on the dashboard. I have to wonder sometimes at our desire for more all the time… and our need to display it, duly encouraged by the commercial magicians that make us believe we really need it. We just can’t leave things alone. It always has to be bigger, better, shinier, faster…

I’ rather find a balance between simplicity and progress…somewhere between keeping it so simple there is little to go wrong and what there is, is easily fixed… and enough progress to actually make things really better, not just looking good.

Maybe I’m just a reactionary…or getting old… or just like classic cars…

Or maybe I should stop procrastinating, be grateful I have wheels at my disposal…and take the tank out for a proper drive…

About Sue Vincent

Sue Vincent is a Yorkshire-born writer and one of the Directors of The Silent Eye, a modern Mystery School. She writes alone and with Stuart France, exploring ancient myths, the mysterious landscape of Albion and the inner journey of the soul. Find out more at France and Vincent. She is owned by a small dog who also blogs. Follow her at scvincent.com and on Twitter @SCVincent. Find her books on Goodreads and follow her on Amazon worldwide to find out about new releases and offers. Email: findme@scvincent.com.
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45 Responses to Lost simplicity

  1. sknicholls says:

    And repairs can be so expensive. Here’s hoping it’s just leaky hose or something simple. I have a twelve year old that I love, but she only has 62,000 miles on her. I’m hoping I can keep her for at least twelve more.


  2. Ah, yes. It’s a brave new world under the hood. That’s why Garry clings to his 2002 yellow bird. My son is tall. He has to drive almost reclining. I’m like you … too short to ever find a comfortable position in a modern car. All cars are (I’m told) designed for people between 5’7″ and 5’11”. If you are not the right specs? Good luck 😢


  3. How lovely that you are an MR2 fan Sue.. I swapped my American car that I brought back from Houston in 1987 for my first MR2 for my 40th birthday – I kept for two years but by that time I was 24 stone and there was only room for me and my handbag.. the car also tended to lean to the right. I swapped for a classic Toyota Supra and I had two of those followed by a Celica and then back to an MR2 when I was living in the UK looking after my mother.. She loved a little speed but getting in and out for her was a problem eventually. So I had to change to a Ford Focus automatic which actually was a lot of fun. However… I do not rule out getting another MR2 in my dotage. Great piece and I empathise.


    • Sue Vincent says:

      I currently have the tank…aka a new Focus… and nowhere near as much fun as the older models. The MR2 though…I’d have one tomorrow if I could afford to buy and maintain it… superb cars, THE best fun to drive…and though the MK1 is undoubtedly the better on the road, the MKII that I fell in love with has to be the prettiest car ever made in my opinion. I’ve had two… and loved them to bits. Nothing they couldn’t cope with. And they fit my size like glove… the most comfortable car ever for the vertically challenged 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I squeezed in I am nearly 6ft and back then almost as wide.. It must have looked highly amusing to oncoming traffic and a great disappointment to hitchhikers!! X


        • Sue Vincent says:

          I feel so small… okay, at a mere 5′, I know that I technically am… a mere foible of the tape measure though 😉

          I was always amazed at what you could get in behind the seats… a week’s shop for the family, half the garden centre… and even a full sized wheelchair that I couldn’t even fit in the boot of the Puma without putting the seats down!


  4. jenanita01 says:

    With you all the way, Sue. Everything has to be ‘new and improved’ these days, which says an awful lot about what they think we have been putting up with before? Most of the time I hate all these improvements. My favourite saying is ‘if it aint broke, please don’t fix it’…


  5. adeleulnais says:

    My Dad was a mechanic and I loved to watch him work on engines, there was always something magical about them and I know they are not fuel efficient and bad for our world but yeah a real engine was magical. Good luck with the tank.


  6. Your “booster seat to reach the pedals”…so funny. ☺


  7. davidprosser says:

    I wish your car a quick recovery and a swift return home Sue.
    xxx Gigantic Hugs xxx


  8. Deborah Jay says:

    I also yearn for the days when vehicles didn’t have compulsory computers. I downgraded my horsebox last year, from a lovely 25 year old HGV truck, to a modern ‘ice cream van’ sized midget. The idea was economy, and the fact the old dear had reached the stage of needing a mechanic most trips to fix something that was just plain worn out.
    Last summer, I didn’t use the van for a month. When I got back in to start it, the battery was flat as a pancake. It’s an 18 month old vehicle that does long trips, not short hops, so I was somewhat affronted that the battery would give up so soon. When I phoned the garage they told me firmly that ‘you can’t leave modern vehicles that long without starting them, because there is so much running all the time (i.e. the computer) even when the engine is switched off’.
    I so wish I’d never sold the old girl…


  9. socialbridge says:

    Don’t give up on your ‘precious, ‘ Sue and for now just see this one as a lump of tin that will get you from A to B!


  10. Judy Martin says:

    I am only just 5ft 2 so also have a job reaching the pedals, but do not need a booster seat for the little Yaris I have now.
    I am not sure I would like a car bossing me about, and they are even trialling ng those ones that ‘drive themselves’! As rubbish as my parking is, there is now way I would let the car do it on its own!


  11. Helen Jones says:

    Good luck with the ‘tank’ – at least you can get on the road again. Hope your little car makes it back home 🙂


  12. I can’t stand the high-tech cars and trucks these days. I just want to get from Point A to Point B (and maybe back to Point A). Most of the time these days I hear people who have car problems say it has to do with one of the computer chips in the car. Even the electric windows. I can hand crank the window myself thank you very much. End of rant.


  13. It’s such a pain being too small for cars. I have to move the seat so far forward that my forehead practically hits the windshield, and my neck gets sore from craning over the hood. I wish you great luck, Sue, as you enter your car hunting adventure. 🙂


  14. Widdershins says:

    I don’t mind the bells and whistles … IF … I am the one deciding whether they turn on or off and when. 😀


  15. Eliza Waters says:

    I’m with you on keeping things simple. They have constantly fiddle with this and that. You need a manual just to turn the darn thing on. Not just cars, washers, stoves, nothing escapes their meddling engineers!
    Alas, resistance is futile. I hope you find a set of wheels that works for you!


  16. dgkaye says:

    Here’s to hopin’ you get your car back. I hear you on all counts. 🙂


  17. noelleg44 says:

    I do hope your car comes back to you, Sue. I have the opposite problem – finding a fuel efficient car where the seat goes back far enough that I’m not driving with my knees to my chin! And might even be able to sit in the back seat without having to turn sideways!


  18. Adrian Lewis says:

    Lost simplicity indeed, Sue, and “I have to wonder sometimes at our desire for more all the time” puts it very well. Maybe many of us don’t want more all the time (I’d love a dslr WITHOUT video capabilities for instance) but power and profit rule ok, and more and more is hurled at us all the time. I try to keep out of this “culture”. A 🙂


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