The Beetle, Messi , Oliver Cromwell & Bomber HarrisWednesday, April 07, 2010
Wednesday was a varied day as it included a discussion about Oliver Cromwell, Argentine football player Lionel Messi and by noon had me driving home in a brand-new electric blue nouveau Volkswagen Beetle.
I was at our Audi dealer waiting for our A-4 to get a recall fix on its ignition and the installation of a new set of windshield wipers. I was quietly reading Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s No Me Cogeréis Vivo ( You won't catch me alive, essays from his Spanish newspaper columns, 2001-2005) and sipping the very nice free coffee that Audi provides to its customers. After an hour I needed to rest my eyes so I knocked on the open door of the resident maintenance manager. He is a well dressed Englishman whose job must surely consist in explaining to irate customers that the expensive repair their car needs is not covered by the warranty. So it’s obvious that the manager’s most important asset is his ability to stay cool.
“Sir,” I told the man, “My wife and I are pretty well retired and by September our Audi lease expires. We will not be able to afford a new one. I see a used Honda Fit in our future. Would you be able to tell us of a possible alternative?”
“No, I know nothing of this. You will have to ask someone else.”
“Sir, are you aware that the only reason Volkswagen made money in 2009 is because Audi (whom they own) made a profit? Now that Volkswagen has purchased Porsche how do you see the situation where you have Porsche’s new four-door sedan, the Panamera competing with the Audi A-8 and then Porsche sport scars competing with Audi sport cars? What do you think is going to happen? Will they not be competing with each other?”
“I was not aware that VW had lost money. I don’t know about this.”
“Sir, seeing that you are English what do you think about Arsenal loosing yesterday to Barcelona thanks to the efforts of Argentine player Messi who kicked in four goals? You know, I am an Argie.”
“I don’t like football.”
“Sir, let’s switch to talking about food. What do you think of French cheese fondue?”
“I don’t like cheese fondue.”
I gave up and turned around to sit and read my Pérez-Reverte. Soon after my service mechanic told me the bad news that our car had an oil leak. But he told me, with a smile, that it would be a warranty repair. He gave me a car, the brand-new blue Beetle, to go home telling me that the repair would be done that very day.
At noon I got his call and returned to the dealer. I was talking whit him and told him of my unsuccessful efforts to have a chat with his boss. “He really is a nice guy,” he told me, “Give him a chance.” And so I did.
“Sir, since you are English and my father was English we must have something in common. My father’s father was from Manchester. Where are you from? “
“I am from London.”
“I love London and the crowning event for me in one of my visits was to step on a grave on the floor of Westminster Cathedral and to say, ‘Hi, H.G.’”
“I love history. Our son is called Oliver. Outside of Parliament there is a statue that says he is there. But I don’t think so since after his death his body was dismembered and scattered.”
“I believe that was the same fate as Richard the III.”
We talked about other English monarchs and I told him of my sleepy experience while watching Deborah Kerr at the Old Vic in the play called The Corn is Green.
"Sir, I had the pleasure of meeting and taking portraits of Lady James of Holland Park (P.D. James). We talked about de Havilland Beavers."
"I don't like P.D. James. Her novels are formulaic."
"I don'think so as people really commit crimes because of wills and family squabbles."
"I don't have family sqabbles so I would not know about that."
I switched to talking about the statue of Sir Arthur Harris, First Baronet (Bomber Harris) outside the church of St. Clement Danes and the man smiled again. As I left we shook hands, warmly.
I drove home thinking about my resolve upon leaving Mexico City in our VW Beetle that I would never buy another one again. This is a resolve that I have kept. Driving the new Beetle did not shake that resolve.
The picture here is of our first Mexican Beetle here with our boxer Antonio on Mocambo Beach in Veracruz sometime around 1969.