MY MYSTIC MECHANIC

May 31, 2012

 

One of the wisest men I know is a West Lothian motor mechanic. Maybe all that time spent lying beneath cars is a sort of meditation; I don’t know. But he has come up with some remarkable philosophical questions and concepts over the years.

For example, one of his questions is the Point Nine.

It’s all to do with petrol prices. Have you noticed that the price per litre displayed on garage forecourts is always an understandable price, plus a mystical Point Nine? You haven’t? Well have a look the next time you’re passing a garage. Unleaded Regular £1.37.9. What IS that point nine?

Is that something the fuel companies get to keep to themselves over and above the profit? With millions of litres of petrol being poured into the tanks of cars up and down the country, that’s a LOT of Point Nines.

And if you put in EXACTLY one litre of fuel… how do you pay them the Point Nine? And what would happen if you just rounded it up and waited for your change – which would be a Point One. It’s a conundrum.

The Master Motor Mechanic also has a philosophical theory of The Last Minute. That’s when people have worked out that it takes exactly 28 minutes to get from their house to their work. So they leave exactly 28 minutes before they are due to arrive at work… And that’s when problems start.

They turn the ignition key of their car, and the engine just goes ‘clunk!’. Now they don’t have time to make other arrangements. There is no way to make it to work on time.

The Mystic Mechanic says: “Only in that Last Minute does their whole world fall apart.”

He tells me that he regularly gets frantic phone calls from incredibly stressed out individuals. They’ll have to miss work. The kids won’t be able to go to school. They can’t get to the shops and the refrigerator is empty… And the whole problem began in The Last Minute.

These are only two of the Great Philosophical Quandaries that this mechanic ponders while meditating on his back in a pool of oil. If it is the job of a philosopher or guru to help you see the world in a new light, then my mechanic friend meets that criterion on all counts.

So it’s not just in the Far East that mystics and philosophers ponder the great questions of life. West Lothian has its very own Murieston Maharishi. I expect soon he’ll have hordes of followers hanging on his every utterance.

I just hope he finds time to service my car.

Drew McAdam


GIVEN THE BRUSH OFF

May 28, 2012

There’s nothing like a bit of fun at somebody else’s expense to cheer up your day. So I was delighted to be party to a telephone conversation that took place between my friend (we’ll call him Mr Wilson) who lives in a council house, and somebody from West Lothian Council (who we’ll call Fred).

It started with a phone call from the Council Works Headquarters. “Hello, can I speak to Mr Wilson?”

“Speaking.”

“We have a line in here for a request to paint a garden gate…”

“Yeah, it’s all rusty.”

“We don’t paint garden gates.”

“Wooo-hooo! I have a free garden gate!”

“Sorry?”

“Well, if the Council doesn’t paint the gates of their housing stock, it must belong to me.”

There was a pause. “How do you work that out?”

“Well, if it’s not the council’s responsibility to maintain it, then it must be my responsibility. And if it’s my responsibility then it must be my gate. So when I leave this house, I can take the gate with me.”

“Hang on… It’s the Council’s gate.”

“But if it’s the Council’s gate then they should maintain it.”

“But they don’t – it’s Council policy.”

“What? It’s council policy not to maintain their property? That doesn’t sound right. What you seem to be saying is that the council expects me to maintain something that belongs to them? That hardly seems fair.”

“No… you’re twisting it round…”

“Look; either it belongs to me – and the onus is on me to maintain it, which means I can take it with me when I leave. Or I can’t take it with me because it it belongs to the Council – in which case the onus is on them to maintain it.”

The caller suddenly had a foolproof argument: “You decorate your house, but you can’t take THAT with you.”

“Yes, I decorate it, but it’s the council’s responsibility to maintain the fabric of the building. Just as I can decorate my gate, but it’s the council’s responsibility to maintain it – Oh, and it needs painting; did I mention that?”

“This is getting us nowhere. The situation is, the council own the gate, so you can’t take it with you when you leave, but it is your responsibility to maintain it – so we’re not going to paint it.”

“Well, in that case, can I have your name?”

“Why?”

“Because my mate writes a column for a local paper, and this is just the sort of muddled thinking he likes poking fun at.”

“My name is Fred… What’s your name?”

“You already know my name – you phoned and asked for me. Remember?”

“Ah…”

At this point Mr Wilson decided he had probably had enough fun at Fred’s expense, and set off to paint his newly acquired gate (which, it transpires, is soon to be replaced anyway – something Fred didn’t seem to know.)

Like I said at the start: there’s nothing like a bit of fun at somebody else’s expense to cheer up your day. Sorry, Fred!


COMPLAINING CYCLISTS

May 17, 2012

 

There is a great deal of antagonism between drivers and cyclists these days. A cycling campaigner recently demanded that all lorries should be fitted with proximity sensors, alarms and extra mirrors so that if the vehicle was turning left at a junction the driver would be alerted to any cyclists between him and the pavement.

Let me say here and now – I am a cyclist. Well, I have a bike. That said, I did cycle from London to Paris, and spent weeks in training on the byways and busy town roads. And, yes, I was once sent flying from my bike by a car. My fault.

If I approach a line of vehicles at traffic lights and intend to go straight on – given that much of the traffic in the lane will be turning left – there is nothing on God’s Earth that will make me overtake on the inside! Why should I demand that these vehicles have sensors, alarms and mirrors, when overtaking on the left is both stupid and illegal?

Let’s get this straight. If you are on the road then you have to abide by the rules of the road. Yes? Well, the rules of the road allow for overtaking on the left at junctions ONLY “…when the driver in front of you has moved out and signalled that they intend to turn right.” There is no provision in the Highway Code allowing you to overtake on the left simply because there is a wee space you can squeeze through. I’ve checked.

Many lorries now display a Danger Zone plate on the rear of their vehicles with a picture of a wee man on a bike and the words “Beware when vehicle is turning left. Do not pass on this side.” What? We actually have to TELL them that?

Common sense tells me that zooming through the red light at a junction is stupid and dangerous – I don’t expect every other vehicle on the road to fit some kind of sensor to warn them that I’m a reckless idiot. I don’t expect trains to have radar fitted because I think it’s okay to zip over a level crossing even though the barrier is down.

Protect the person breaking the rules? Should all drivers have big fluffy cushions fitted to their cars so that we don’t hurt the cyclists who insist on jumping red lights? And should pedestrians be swathed in bubblewrap so we don’t harm the cyclists who insist on riding on the pavements at the speed of sound? How about powerful Halogen spot lamps on the roofs of our cars so we can see the cyclists clad in black with no lights on their bikes?

Hey, I have an idea! Maybe we could all stick to the rules of the road. That might just work!

Drew McAdam


WHERE A REAL BOOK RULES

May 14, 2012

 

When I first heard about the Kindle, I thought it was one of these chocolate eggs with the toys inside. I couldn’t fathom out what all the fuss was about.

And then I started seeing people in buses and trains reading from what looked like a grey roof tile that had a sheet of glass on the front. This, I discovered was a Kindle – an e-book reader.

Now, I like reading, but I could never understand what I would want with 40,000 books on one little electronic device. After all, I can only read one book at a time.

However, all my friends started getting them and telling me how wonderful they were. You can download samples of books and try-before-you-buy. You can change the font size (handy if, like me, your eyes are not as good as they once were.) It even has a built-in dictionary.

Okay, I was tempted to get one, but I love the smell and feel of a book. In fact, I used to tell my friends that I had a 3D Kindle, then wait to see how long it was before they realised that I was talking about a real paper-and-ink book. (Well, it made me laugh.)

Turning my back on books and going down the path of electronics seemed like a betrayal of everything I held dear. However, I succumbed. I bought the e-reader device and downloaded a couple of eBooks. And I love it! If I happen across a book that appeals to me, I can download it and 20-seconds later I’m reading it. Some of the classics, those books I’ve always wanted to read but never got around to, are free. So, I have finally moved into the digital age, and have been singing the praises of the little electronic gizmo.

In fact, a collection of my columns from over the past couple of years is being published soon, but the Kindle version is already online (If you’ve got a Kindle you can get it from Amazon.co.uk. Just go to the website and put in a search for “Drews Views”.) I can proudly tell you that the e-book version of Drew’s Views is presently sitting in the Amazon’s Bestsellers Rank at No. 101,181. (Which is probably about 3rd from the bottom.) So, yes, I am a convert. It’s the perfect device…

And then I discovered a drawback I hadn’t considered until that point; I went to take a bath. I love to read while I’m soaking in the bubbles, but lectronics and water don’t mix too well.

Now, I know the voltage is not enough to light me up and kill me if the electronic gizmo tumbles into the bubbles, but I wouldn’t imagine it would do the Kindle much good. At worst, a paperback just curls up around the edges.

Back to reading a real book, I think.

Drew McAdam


CAREER CHUMPS

May 7, 2012

 

This is for those youngsters who have struggled with the “What are you going to be when you grow up” question, and now need to come up with an answer.

I know a 13-year old boy who has his heart set on being an accountant. So, he goes along to see his career advisor, who tells him that to attain his goal he needs to gain two Higher passes, then attend college.

Being a bright lad, he realises that this doesn’t sound right, so he asks a couple of top-flight accountants if the advice he has been given is correct. He quickly learns that, contrary to the advice from the school-supplied careers guidance monkey, he needs a university degree in a business related subject, followed by passes in accountancy exams from one of the professional bodies such as The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland.

That’s quite a jump from two Higher Grade passes and a college certificate!

So, here we have a guidance teacher giving advice that is so far off the mark it’s laughable. No encouragement. No support. Just exceptionally bad advice. I wonder if, when asked what he wanted to be when he left school, the adviser said: “Something in the career guidance line.” Unlikely. In other words, he ended up in a job he didn’t want in the first place, telling youngsters how to get the job THEY want.

And here’s a thought: if the careers advice officer is so clued up on careers, why doesn’t he have one? Why aren’t they forging ahead in some highly paid profession, rising through the ranks like a rocket?

When you think about it, the same thing is true of the Government-paid Small Business advisers and specialists. If they know enough to be giving business advice to a young entrepreneur, why aren’t they running their own thriving business?

With all that knowledge and expertise, why are they sitting behind a desk doing a nine-to-five job with paid annual leave and a set lunch break when they could be the head of a multinational conglomerate? Could it be, do you think, that these advisers perhaps don’t have the ability to succeed in a commercial environment? And if that’s the case, why are they dishing out advice?

You want my advice? Don’t listen to the “advisers”. Instead, go out and speak to the people who are already out there, doing it for real. You will find that successful people will be more than happy to offer advice. Good advice.

Drew McAdam