An amusing escapade with my father-in-law…

Grandad is still a capable driver, although approaching 88 years of age. Last week he phones to say he wants to buy a new car – taking advantage of the government’s recently introduced ‘scrappage’ scheme, intended to get older cars off the road. He excitedly points out that he can get £2000 for his well beaten-up Toyota Carina (which he bought new in 1994) against a new Toyota Yaris. His next question is “Alec, will you come with me to buy it ?” – I agree, perhaps foolishly.

Days later, after travelling 38 miles to Grandad’s home, I discover the dealer is a further 40 minutes drive down the A1. I assume he’s dealt with the company before, and knows the location – but it turns out, he hasn’t a clue who they are, or where their headquarters is. “Have you made an appointment,” I politely inquire, beginning to feel this may be a wasted journey. “Oh, no” comes the reply, “I thought we might just turn up at the showroom”.

I insist he calls, which he does somewhat grudgingly. Returning, he announces that we’re expected in an hour. “Where do we go”, I ask,  but he’s forgotten to ask directions. I call the dealer myself & get instructions how to find them,  then off we set.

I must admit to being a bit apprehensive about the journey – you would understand if you saw the Carina…it’s  scratched, scraped, bumped & dented on all sides (all collected in recent years) – but I’m greatly ‘re-assured’ when Grandad informs me the damage was largely inflicted in the local Supermarket car park, which he describes as ‘the most dangerous place on earth’ (methinks he’s not heard of Helmand Province).

Only one wrong turn later, we arrive at the Toyota Showroom & park up. There’s some delay before the salesman, called Nathan, attends us. Then we’re into the usual cut and thrust of car dealing. Grandad has no idea what colour he wants, how many doors, whether he requires a delivery package. Nathan is patient, and somewhat condescending, and we finally agree on red, with 3 doors (because they’re bigger & will give Grandma more room to manoeuvre in & out), to have the delivery package including mats & a tank of petrol.

After what seems an eternity – more waiting for paper-work, during which we drink coffee, and Grandad becomes increasingly irritable (marching over to the office to demand why it’s taking so long) – everything is ready for our meeting with the admin. guy, who takes us painstakingly through the aforementioned paperwork, and informs us that the new vehicle will be ready in around 6 weeks time. Grandad appears deflated, having fully expected to drive home in a shiny, new Toy.

Then the rubber hits the road – whoops, sorry. Deposit required. Plastic offered. PIN number prompt. Grandad looks confused – he’s never been asked for a PIN number before. He trots out 1471 (the number for British Telecom when you miss a call & want to find out who called!) The cruncher – we’re told the PIN is locked, can’t use it, even if Grandad remembers, which, of course, he can’t. We’re snookered. The salesman & the admin guy look embarrassed. Grandad’s getting flustered. Then with amazing gallantry I say, “Let me pay with my card”. Deal. Nathan’s happy, Simon’s happy. Grandad’s happy as Larry, and full of gratitude: “Couldn’t have managed without you,” he beams in my direction.

I’m happy for him – and relieved to get home in one piece.