21st Century Transport

The first time we did a house exchange was with Canada. Shortly after arriving, we got into the car to explore the local supermarket. “Uh-oh,” I said, turning the key. “Battery’s dead.” (As a dodo). So we called a mechanic, who instead of opening the bonnet, said, “Did you have your foot on the brake pedal? No? It’s a Toyota, see? A security measure. $25 please.”

That was a dozen years ago. The Japanese have come on since then. On our recent trip to Mauritius, we hired a Nissan Micra. No ignition key at all, just a remote you toss inside, and then, having put the gear stick in P, trod on the brake and touched the steering wheel three times with your forehead, you press a button. Unfortunately, every time we stopped at a traffic light, the engine stalled, which meant this ritual got a bit stressful after a while. That was until I discovered that it was on purpose, and when you take your foot off the brake, the engine restarts automatically. Brilliant! Perhaps all cars are like this nowadays, I wouldn’t know. Our Citroën Xsara, which entered service at the end of the last century, has a different starting ritual: curse it, kick it, crank it. I get the feeling it’s time we got a new one. I’d love one of those things that zoom around in the sky like Bruce Willis has in The Fifth Element. Failing that, I’d settle for a Nissan Micra.

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