Oh no – not another accident?
Yep, a nasty little fender bender.
No one hurt, mind you, and fully insured.
Still, a rather distressing pain in the you know where.
As the car was still drivable, I’d been having visions of trucking on through an insanely packed week and booking it into the allocated panelbeater the following week on the two days I’d be without either parental or regular work obligations.
So Bennie and I rock up to the Ballarat Rd company just after Monday’s breakfast to get the lowdown.
No way, I’m informed – this car, with its broken glass and other gnarly bits, needs to be off the road.
Part of me has been expecting this.
But still, it’s a blow.
Between our Yarraville home and five days of school in Sunshine, three days of work at Airport West, a Consider The Sauce Feast in Sunshine, and a full morning of tests for Bennie at his new high school in Hoppers Crossing, there’s just no way we can make it.
Ideas of spending the rest of the week in our respective beds are entertained.
And never mind the Caroline Springs road trip on Saturday to watch Michael Rosen make bagels.
But as we soon discover, there’s a whole industry and system built up around people just like us.
The panelbeater in question is one of hundreds in the western suburbs.
Yet we are just one of 11 cars expected this morning as a sort of rush hour following weekend bingles.
As one of the staff cheerfully confesses: “We make a living from other people’s misfortunes!”
And – it shouldn’t surprise me but it does – the panelbeater has a well-oiled working arrangement with a hire car company just a few minutes drive away.
The car delivered to us about half an hour after we arrive is the third for which paperwork has been generated already this morning.
Incredibly – to us anyway – the small Nissan is so fresh from the factory, we are its very first serious users.
There’s packaging flotsam in the boot and glove compartment, and it has that “new car smell”.
“This smells like Grandma’s car,” quips Bennie as we head out into our working week.
He ends up being just a little bit late for school, while I make my 10am start time at Airport West with ease.
The car seems quite affordable, and will simply add a few hundreds to the excess I am likely to have to pay. Though I suspect there are other firms and arrangements that provide “service cars” at less or no cost.
Mostly, though, we are content – the car will be fixed as soon as possible and fully safe when we reclaim it. And in the meantime, we can get on with meeting our many commitments safely, securely and without mind-shredding stress.
But it dismays me just how reliant I have become on having a motor vehicle at my disposal.
Especially as I spent my first 20 years in Melbourne mostly without one. In fact, public transport was one of the reasons I chose Melbourne when contemplating a move from New Zealand.
But in those early years, I lived in Fitzroy, Brunswick, St Kilda, the CBD.
Out here in the west?
Forget about it!
And living so close and centrally in Yarraville – and with a train station just a block away – we have options that many, many thousands of people in newer and more outlying suburbs do not.
But still, I’m rather glad that while there’s been people lining up to take my money, they have professionally provided services that we needed.
Really, really needed.
As it stands, and as it will likely be for a long time to come, western suburbs families with diverse work, school and other arrangements simply have little or no choice but to cop it.