Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Mercy for Flocki!

Today, I got new summer tyres for Flocki, my trusty Toyota Corolla 4WD station wagon, a 1995 vintage. On Easter Saturday, I washed and polished him so he looks much shinier than on this "archive" picture taken in winter:

Flocki in winter (onemorehandbag) Recently, several of my friends and relatives asked me whether I was going to make use of the scrapping premium (EUR 1.500 in Austria, where we call it Verschrottungsprämie, EUR 2.500 in Germany, where it's called Abwrackprämie, and the state obviously is even more eager to get rid of old cars and boost the ailing automotive industry). I always covered Flocki's ears when such suggestions were voiced, hoping he would not get offended, or, horror of horrors, suspect me of plotting to drop him off at the knacker's anytime soon.

You see, even though I know that airconditioning and airbag-less Flocki is not exactly state of the art and there are some rusty spots (plus for the last two weeks he has had a bit of a rasp in his lungs when I drive in 4th or 5th gear), he and I enjoy quite a special relationship and despite the fact that he is quite the petrol-guzzling monster, it is against my environmental priciples to have a perfectly functioning "appliance" scrapped only to buy a shiny new one. Not that I am adverse to the concept of buying things in general, mind. Flocki is also a dinosaur (or should I say, Samurai?) of the age when Japanese cars were still made in Japan (funny to think that this is a mark of quality these days when in my childhood it was more of a swear-word) rather than China, the Czech Republic or Turkey. When I bumped into the senior boss of my trusted Toyota dealer/garage in KLU this morning and told him people had wondered if I was going to scrap Flocki any time soon, his comment was, "you'll drive that one another 10 years." Not that I'm planning to, but apart from the fact that a fat 21st century car wouldn't fit into the tiny parking space allotted to me in my Viennese garage, I am attached to him because he belonged to my Granddad.

[Tangent] Speaking of garage - most of the times when I park Flocki on the streets of Vienna, I find funny laminated notices dropped at the windscreen or squeezed through the space between the driver's door. All of those appeals to sell my car are written by people with an interesting approach to grammar and orthography:

car dealer (onemorehandbag) I particularly like the "Pickel" (spot, pimple) instead of "Pickerl" (Austrian colloquial for vehicle inspection sticker) in the above. [End of tangent]

As long as I can remember, my Granddad always dreamed of a Range Rover. Everyone knew about his obsession and he talked about getting a Range Rover "one day" all the time. At one stage, my Dad gave him a model version in a wooden garage he had made and Granddad put it in a bookshelf to look at. I don' t know if Granddad really could not afford the real thing or whether this car symbolized too much post-war affluence and swank to be justified by a shopkeeper in a small community. Be that as it may, when he was retired, cheaper offroad vehicles had come on the market and he decided to get a Mitsubishi Pajero instead. I suppose in his rangeroving dreams he must have had servants, because he had obviously not realised what a pain it was to wash such a monster of a car. The fact that my Granny who had an artifical hip joint needed a stool to get in the car was another drawback. I can't remember how long he drove the Mitsubishi, but in my memory it was pretty soon that he managed to convince his youngest son to take it off him so he could buy Flocki instead. It was still a four-wheel-drive car, just as white as the Pajero had been and pretty cool and unusual (back in 1995) as well. This time, he had not realised just how thirsty Flocki could get (the Pajero had a much more economical diesel engine). When he went to a health resort a good 1.5 hrs drive from his house with my Granny and Great-Aunt, he got my Mum to swap cars with him (hers was a diesel...) for the 2 weeks they were there. The rest of the time, he mostly only drove to the supermarket and back so petrol costs didn't get too sky-high.

When he turned 80, he was summoned to undergo a psychological test to be able to keep his driver's licence. Incensed, he drove to the authority in charge and told them they could keep his licence. Possibly he also told them they could stick it where the sun didn't shine, but that is apocryphal. By that time, I had got my first job and could afford to keep a car in Vienna and Mum agreed to buy Flocki off Granddad. For weeks, he chuckled about the face of the bank clerk in his village when he casually gave her the cheque for a rather impressive amount of Schillings and asked her to put it in his account. "Do you know this person?", the clerk asked him, probably thinking, "here goes another poor old, gullible man".

By the time I already sweated profusely behind the steering wheel in Vienna, stressed when having to switch lanes or find a parking space, he had already regretted his rash decision to return his drivers licence, realising that he needed a car for grocery shopping. He invested the money from the Flocki-sale plus some more in a shockingly overpriced small, slow and noisy car that could be driven without a licence. This, he drove for the subsequent 2 years until he got sick (he died a month after his 83rd birthday).

So you could call Flocki my Grandad's watered-down dream of a Range Rover come true and a souvenir I try to keep in good shape for as long as I can.

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