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Good and Ego battle over an Audi A3

January 20th, 2009


I got a special Christmas present this year and, although it didn’t fit under the tree, it looked just fine out in the driveway. Well, the sleek black Audi A3 quattro was not a for-keeps gift but I considered the opportunity to drive this agile, redesigned, all-wheel-drive treat for a couple of weeks a gift well worth receiving.

Although the car had been at our house for three days, I had only driven it once and was looking forward to picking up my mother on Christmas morning, bringing her to our house for the gift exchange, then driving her to my sister’s in Chester so she could do the same with her family. The trip would give me a chance to check out the 2.0-litre turbocharged 4-cylinder’s performance and noodle with the paddle-shift S tronic dual-clutch (DSG) automatic transmission, too.

The only downside to the drive-about was the coating of road salt covering the A3, a result of Lisa’s last minute shopping spree in the stormy weather leading up to Christmas Day. So when I pulled into the underground parking where Mum lives, I eyed the tight-quartered, one-stall car wash bay where residents can freshen their cars using a coin-operated wash wand.

“Mum can wait five minutes so her son can have a clean road toy to ferry her around in.” I rationalized, pulling the Audi into the wash bay.

I noticed the wash wand had not been put away properly. Instead of being sheathed in its holder at the front of the stall, it was laid on top of the clamps used to hold floor mats for cleaning. I wondered why some people just don’t return things to their proper place.

After the wash-wand-dance, a high-stepping maneuver that got me through a quick soaping and rinse in one $2-cycle, I returned the wash wand to the same place where I found it, on the floor mat clamps. Getting into the car I felt a hint of guilt for not putting it in the sheath where it belonged, especially considering I had silently bad-mouthed the lazy sloth who used the wash before me and had done the exact same thing.

“Chill out Garry, it’s Christmas”, I muttered, reversing out of the wash bay.

And that is precisely when I heard the ripping clunk then a loud distinct womp. Before even considering what it could be I noticed the right side mirror assembly hanging by the remote adjustment cable like a bad dream. The mirror itself was dangling out of the case looking about as sick as I felt.

Of course it was my fault that the hose, with plenty of slack because of where lazybones stored the wash wand, had spun a death noose around the mirror. When I reversed out, something had to give and the contorted mirror assembly had ‘loser’ stenciled all over it.

I pulled back into the bay and walked around to the right side of the car, fully expecting the door to be dented and the mirror pulled out by the roots. But to my surprise, the door was unscathed and, with a little fumbling and coaxing, the mirror assembly snapped back into place. I couldn’t believe my luck when the power adjuster worked and the side marker light on the outboard edge of the casing operated perfectly.

I gloated over the luck of recovering from my wash wand storage misdemeanor. Every now and then you get a free one and the spirit of Christmas had certainly been on my side when the Audi, and my ego, came through the incident safe and sound. Pip Pip!

The Sowerby family heard the story over the next couple of hours opening gifts at our house. Later, driving Mum to Chester, I gloated some more, checking the mirror for vibrations and testing every conceivable maneuver of the electric adjustors.

Pulling into my sister’s yard, it all came crashing down.

When I opened the passenger’s door for my mother, a paint chip on the hood caught my eye. Closer inspection revealed a two-inch scratch and a very small if-you-look-real-close dent. Obviously the womp had come back to haunt me and the gloat party was history.

I’ve been there before with self-inflicted car wounds but after 40 years and millions of kilometres, the number of incidents can be counted on one hand.

It wasn’t just the damage, though. What was I going to tell Wheels editor Todd Gillis when I handed the car over to him for his review? What was I going to tell the folks at Audi? The word would get out that I never put anything away and don’t do proper pre-drive inspections to see what havoc dangling hoses might wreak.

After the shock of my crumbling good fortune had stabilized, the thought of blaming the mishap on a branch that fell off my copper beech tree drifted into that dark recess of my mind. After all, the damage could have come from a small tree branch and we all know about the high winds that stalked Halifax during the week before Christmas.

It all came down to a battle between good and ego. Take the blame for a stupid mistake and learn yet another lesson in putting things in their proper place. Or slime my way out with a windy tale festooned with guilt and loss of self-respect.

So, Mr. Audi, sorry about the tacky hood ornament.

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