Friday, April 16, 2010

Warning light - the clue's in the name!

Warning: "a) a sign or signal designed to instill caution in its recipient"
but also
b) an amazing album by the oh-so-talented band green day. second only to their most recent album, american idiot.

Sorry, just got a bit distracted! Anyway, I was in the car the other day and I started wondering about the oddness of some of the (many) warning lights that are on (mostly modern) cars.

A few days ago I was in the car listening to the directions that my sat nav was giving me and therefore I had to turn around in a gateway - as everyone does, eventually! Anyway, it was a gateway to a field and the ground was a little muddy, it being the time of year when tractors are pulled out of the shed and go off roaming the fields, trying to earn their supper. In the mud, I suffered a weeny bit of wheel spin and a little light lit up on the dashboard of my car - 'Warning' it flashed at me - 'your wheels are spinning'…Well no sh*t Sherlock, like I couldn't tell that from the whizzy sound they were making as I was going nowhere and the amount of mud that was flying past my rear view mirror…

Anyway, after a few seconds of whizzing, I got a bit of traction, I moved back onto the road and the light went out, but it made me wonder about all the other superfluous warning lights that there are, especially those on cars, you see... we've had a few…(warning lights and cars!)

Once, we had a Renault 5 and it didn't have a temperature gauge (as was the custom at the time) - instead it had a warning light on the dashboard for the temperature of your engine. I actually thought this was pretty nifty to have such an uncluttered display panel until one day when I was in the car waiting for hubby to come out of the dentist's. Now I know you're wondering what changed my mind at exactly that point in time, but because I was a) in the car and b) bored, I decided to read the instruction book for the car ("First find your car…") - anyway, in there I discovered that the little water warning light was intended to come on if your car boiled over - not 'you are overheating, please stop your vehicle and find liquid to pour into the engine', nope it was more along the lines of 'Caution, you have overheated, your engine is about to seize at any second, if you do not stop this car 5 minutes ago, it will go bang very loudly and your con rod will disappear out through a hole in your front wing that you didn't previously own…' Well, you get the gist…

You see once you get started on these things, there's no stopping the lunacy…and there's another one - brake warning lights. Our car has 2 of them, loosely labelled the stopped and the not stopping lights (or something like that). The one indicates that your handbrake is still on - which I always find is also indicated by the fact that I am going nowhere fast while the engine whines very VERY loudly and smoke emanates from the wheels. The other one is the one that tells you your brakes have worn away - which is also indicated by a complete lack of stopping power and of course, the noise warning of the sound of tortured metal on metal…

I wonder too about fog light warning lights - I mean, fancy labelling most of these in such a similar colour to the dashboard display that few people can actually see it. Hmmm (am I grumbling here…?)

The latest thing appears to be the engine management light that most cars nowadays seem to have. This is a little light that is set by the manufacturers to light up at a random rate in between services. Often this little light goes out by itself if you ignore it for long enough, especially if the car is giving no other signs of distress, such as not going, making grinding, drumming or bleating noises or juddering uncontrollably every time to take it out of the drive. If you are foolish enough to take hubby to the dentist (or any other family member) and therefore read the manual, it will tell you to take your car to the dealer if this little light lights up. The dealer will turn the light off for £40 and reset the random switch for you…

I suppose it could be worse as we did have one car which mysteriously used to cut out at 70mph in a random fashion (usually in the outside lane of the motorway) - which is a whole other story in fact. I'm thinking then that some kind of warning light might have been useful in that situation - one that would go 'warning, your engine is about to stop working completely, all functions will cease, you will not be assimilated, you will not pass go…' …or something…. At the very least it could have said 'Warning, let this be a reminder to you, never buy a second hand Fiat…'!
Hot Rod
I think I should stop here, I'm getting all hot under the collar and I'm starting to wonder if I am reading way too much Jeremy Clarkson...

Thursday, April 01, 2010

This should not be funny at all…

I know a guy (CWP)*1 and he recently told me a story that should not have been funny at all, but the way he told it just had us all howling with laughter…I will leave you to make up your own minds, but please don't shoot the messenger - I'm only telling you what he told me!

CWP was in China and decided to take a day trip to the Great Wall. Of course, there's nothing funny about that at all, after all, it's what you do, isn't it - Great Wall, Forbidden City, other tourist sites - not funny, nope. Anyway, CWP uses a wheelchair and owing to the fact that he was on his own, he was allocated a Chinese guide by the tour operators that he booked with. He was really pleased about that and because the Chinese are helpful and polite he had a really good time - his guide wasn't a funny man, but that suited CWP just fine.

Now at the time, the Chinese authorities had installed a lift (elevator) to get people to the top of a section of the Great Wall (I think they may have actually removed it after the incident, to stop other insane wheelchair users up there) and CWP was really excited to go up and see the view. I guess it was after he got to the top that he realised that as a wheelchair user there were a few limitations with the top of the wall that he hadn't previously expected. First off, it wasn't flat and so a certain amount of pushing by both him (and his guide) was required - especially since although CWP is a big guy, due to his disability, he's not really that strong. Anyway, he struggled and pulled on his wheels and his little guide pushed and struggled and they got him to the highest point on that section of the wall. He stopped to draw breath and to take some photos and sent his guide back down to the bottom of the slope to wait for him. It was sometime around this point that things started to go wrong, when he encountered another of the limitations of the wall - you see, hundreds of years and thousands of feet have polished the stone surface to a slick sheen, if not a high gloss. Now all the wheelchair users out there are probably just a bit ahead of me here and are all anticipating what happened next, in exactly the way you do when you hear about Paddy and the bucket but for the rest of you I will explain…

CWP started down the slope - he gripped his wheel rims to help him brake - he continued to move - he gripped harder - he continued to move - he took a death grip on the wheels and looked down at the ground - his wheels were not going round at all, but the world was moving quicker and quicker as he started to slide down the highly polished slope - gathering pace all the while, he started to go into a panic and it was at this point that he looked up….

…only to see his little Chinese guide (did I say he was little?) in a crouch position with his arms outstretched directly in CWP's path.

"I catchee you…don' worry…I catchee you…!"

Did I mention quite how big CWP is? Well, he told me that in an instant it flashed through his head about how he would clearly flatten his poor guide if he carried on in his headlong slide and so he did the only thing he could think of and stuck his arm out sideways to grab something…anything…

…up to this point we were all roaring with laughter about the poor little guide insisting he could 'catchee' - right up until the second that CWP told us he managed to catch something with his hand and stopped very, very, very suddenly and dislocated his shoulder in the process. Ooops, that had to hurt…

Ever seen a large group of people (except one) go silent, in an almost guilty way, just after they hear the punch line of a joke they don't think they should laugh at? (Anything with Adam Hills springs to mind). Well, it was like that - the only person still laughing was CWP - having had his shoulder put back in, he is going on with his daily life and is now regaling people with this tale which looking back on it, he finds hilarious from start to finish…


He snorted and chortled, "… I know it doesn't sound funny, but "I catchee you…don' worry…I catchee you…!" - well, you can just imagine it…." he roared...

Dies Laughing emoticon

*1 Canadian with pipe
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