So it was a pleasant surprise a week or so back when I received a letter from those smashing people at Vauxhall. They'd written to me especially to let me know that as a result of their continuous quality investigations they established that my car may have a potential fault within the steering column integrated module (the
So worried were they about my safety that they'd called in my car. They just didn't want me going off half cock in the High Street.
Booking a check up could not have been simpler. I went to Vauxhall's "Customer Satisfaction Programme" website and make a date. This morning at 8 am! Why I chose 8 am I'll never know; I'm a terrible early riser (no smut!) and what with not being able to find my "Car Pass", which the letter told me was essential, by Sunday night I was a bag of nerves.
The alarm went off at 6:30 am, which was a shock since I thought I'd set it for 6 am. So I was totally freaked out as I switched the windscreen wipers on and headed for Debden.
It wasn't raining but it might as well have been. "Debden", it always rains in "Debden" even when it's sunny elsewhere. "Debden" a stop on the Central Line, and a heart stopping destination.
I've been there before when I took my car to the main Vauxhall dealer for an MoT. Never again - except they were to carry out my CIM check. I arrived at 8 am precisely, I know that 'cause the Radio 4 time signal had just ended as I put my hand brake on, switched off the engine and removed the ignition key. No, I wouldn't say I'm strange, would you?
I took my letter, the nice one from Vauxhall, my car keys and my car documentation - you cannot be too careful - I still hadn't found out what my Car Pass was. I knew immediately that an early appointment was a mistake. There was a queue of men outside the "Customer" door - I felt like a man in dirty mac queuing up at a strip joint.
I marched up the desk. "I'm here, my man at the kind request of your employer Mr Vauxhall who has taken the trouble to write to me about a possible minor problem with my auto-mobile. Will you tell your master that Mr Coidan has arrived." I didn't. "I'm here about me CIM - I got a letter." I said "Name" he said "Barry Coidan", I replied.
It was going to be a long day for my customer consultant as he flipped through about a hundred identical forms. "Waiting?" he enquired. I had no idea what he meant. "No I don't think so." I stammered. " When do you want to collect?" I explained that I'd booked on line and that I was told my car would be ready in an hour. "You're waiting then."
Two emotions mixed within me at that moment. Relief, knowing that we were at last talking the same language; and the slight frisson at the thought that his jollies had been curtailed last night when his wife complained that he'd farted the last time they'd had congress. This explained his foul mood.
"Contact number". I began to say something like "It's on the form I filled in on...." "077730287681." "Yes I replied, except I knew it was wrong. "Where do I park?
Having re-parked the car, hand break double checked, I returned to hand over my car keys. " I think the phone number you have is wrong." ..."077730287681". "That's it", I confirmed, "What is a Car Pass?" We don't need it - it's the car's security number."
I left having agreed to a wrong number and walked towards Debden, a great place to spend an hour or so just cooling your heels. "This is silly, they won't be able to tell me when my car's ready, I could hang around for hours". I couldn't go back, that would be too embarrassing, so I e-mailed them. I had the e-mail confirming my appointment and a contact. But maybe no one would read it.
Debden, has extremely little going for it. Until about 1950 it was a large field but the London County Council, wanting to rehouse the poor bastards bombed out of their homes during the last war, alighted on the site and built a large council estate and all the amenities, including a shopping parade.
The shopping parade is smashing. Originally it had loads of small and medium sized shops, very much the mix you'd find in the East End before it was levelled. Above the shops were family sized flats with balconies. Nothing more than three storeys - people sized.
The parade and flats are there but the shops now exhale death and decay. The usual mix of charity and 99p shops, and Chinese take ways. Two banks (one ATM: out of order), and a Boots.
I had a cup of coffee and a roll in a cafe. The ham salad roll was the best I've had in years, I munched reading the Guardian - such a poser what? And then I went to Boots.
It was like the set of a vampire movie. Deserted except for one living dead at the counter. Shelves, empty and incongruous sale items. " Deep Cleansing Cream" reduced from £40 to £19.99p. He didn't have what I wanted. "Thought I had but no, will make sure I re-order." I bought a pack of Boots own brand disposable razors - 96p. I handed him a £10 note. As he handed me the change "Sorry, no notes, " pouring 10 pence pieces into my hand.
As a shopping experience, I'd have preferred my eyelids to have been peeled and my tongue stapled to a bucking bronco.
Debden, killed by out of town shopping, Loughton, Buckhurst Hill and Woodford. It might have been working class and council housing once but it's now aspirational and home owning - and Debden doesn't cut the mustard. Which is a shame. The irony is that the cars killed it as a shopping centre yet it has more major car dealers within spitting distant than most towns.
My phone rang, my car was ready, less than 2 hours after I booked it in. They'd got my message or else I'd given them the right number all along.
To celebrate, I had the car hand washed and polished, inside and out.
I still don't know what, if anything, was wrong with the car. But hey, a trip to Debden - wouldn't have missed that for all the world.