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5:05pm on Thursday, 24th September, 2009:

Communication Failure


Sometimes, when you're in a car, someone in another car will want to tell you that there's something wrong. The usual way to do this is by flashing the driver. Thus, if you see someone driving with their indicator twinking or their petrol cap open, you can flash your headlights at them and they'll know there's something wrong.

This is fine so far as it goes, but it only works if the driver of the car you're flashing can determine what is wrong.

Today, I was driving behind a car that had its rear windscreen wiper on. This is the sort of thing that's so intrusive that if someone did flash you, you'd notice the rear wiper before you'd notice the flash. However, this was not the case here, because the wiper was missing its blade. The mechanism was merrily swinging from side to side, but there was no wiper blade. The driver was blissfully unaware of what was going on.

Should I flash or shouldn't I? Well, it's not the sort of thing that a driver could become aware of just by looking around, but it is something that a quick check of the various stalks coming out of the steering column would reveal. Then again, it wasn't all that important a fault.

Oh, I decided to flash.

The driver, who was an old bloke (in a Ford Ka) noticed me flash. I could see him looking around, checking his instrument panel, peering into his mirrors and so on, but he didn't notice what was wrong. This at least gave me confidence that the reason his rear wiper was missing a blade was not because it had got stuck in the on position and he'd taken it off himself to stop it from driving him nuts. However, he didn't check whatever controls the rear wiper, and so was left confused. He looked in his mirror and shrugged, but there was very little I could do but point to the offending part of his vehicle. Fingers don't have a focus, though, so he could only see the line of my point, not the target of it, and seemed to think it was something to do with the headrest on the passenger seat. Maybe if I'd lied and pointed at his number plate he would have stopped, but then he still probably wouldn't have figured it out.

We parted our ways at the next roundabout, he knowing there was something wrong with his car and me having no way of telling him exactly what.

Maybe I should learn morse code.

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Copyright © 2009 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).