I got the call that I had been dreading this morning. One of my daughters had broken down on the A1 at one of the busiest times of the day. She was all right. The car was off the road and she was safe. The police had been informed, the roadside assistance was on its way and so there was no real issue to worry about. Being a dad though, I did worry. It was cold and dark and the A1 is a very dangerous place to be at any time of day.
I’d planned to get the train in to work that morning but instead threw on my clothes and leapt into the car. What I was going to do to help I wasn’t sure but I felt better that I was at least on my way. I rang her to find out where she was. The police had arrived along with a tow truck that would get her out of the way. She told me that they were taking her to the car park in Westerhope where the roadside assistance could meet up. It seemed to be a regular place to drop off cars that had stopped on the busy Western Bypass.
I arrived just as the car was being lowered off the low loader. I bought her a cup of tea and we sat in my car until the mechanic arrived. It was very cold outside and the windows steamed up. When help arrived he opened the bonnet and took a small green box out of his van and plugged it into the car. He turned over the engine and told us that the car wasn’t firing on two of the four cylinders. When this happens the engine management system prevents the car from operating. He suspected it was the coils that feed the electricity to the spark plugs yet when he checked these they were all fine.
I remembered from my youth, when I used to tinker about with cars (they were much easier back in the day) that an engine needed fuel, air and a spark of electricity. It had air, it had electricity and so it must be something to do with the fuel, either the injectors or the filter perhaps. This wasn’t something that could be fixed immediately and so the car was towed back to her house. I took my daughter to work and made my way down to Durham.
I’m sure this is a scenario that gets played out many times every day. I pass at least two cars at the side of the road every morning as I go to work yet this is a story about technology and how it has transformed our lives without us thinking about it.
When I was young and had a break down I would have to tramp across the fields to find a phone box. My daughter used her mobile. The police arrived in seconds and used GPS to let the tow truck know where she was. She was able to get in touch and keep in touch with me and so I knew exactly where she was and of course when the mechanic arrived it was technology that he used to identify what was wrong.
We don’t bat an eyelid though. We’ve absorbed all this new technology and now take it for granted. This cold morning reminded me how much the world has changed since I was a lad.