Friday, 4 November 2011

Very important people- The breakdown recovery driver

In this series of posts I'm going to try and shed some light on the important people, who really make a difference, but rarely get true acknowledgement.

The first in the series is the car breakdown recovery driver.



Until very recently I had never experienced the perils of breaking down as a driver. That's not to say I haven't experienced breakdowns. As a child I fondly remember my fathers futile efforts, and swearing, as an elderly vehicle refused to work as designed. Or my friends face contorted in confusion as she burnt through the clutch in her relatively new Punto.

This however was my first experience as driver. I felt the flush of embarrassment as my car refused to work on the A205/A3 junction at Clapham Common (this is a very busy section of road). I remember fondly pushing the car up the kerb as my wife vainly attempted to control the vehicle. All the time my fellow motorists honked and tooted their support. Thanks guys.

I called the breakdown service and they efficiently told me that a recovery vehicle would be along within the hour. Against all of my pre-conceptions, within half an hour, Simon arrived.

Simon is a salt of the earth type guy. He wears his heart on his sleeve, along with his heavily sexist opinions, and casual racism. As you can imagine he is a joy to spend any amount of time with, let alone trapped in a van cab for an hour or so.



This lead me to think about the skills required to perform this job. There's the obvious skills, but then there's the deeper ones that people miss. So let's get into them-

Mechanical Knowledge-

An obvious one first up. Can you ascertain what's wrong with a vehicle? More importantly can you also insist that it can't be fixed roadside so that you can waste half the day driving?

This isn't as easy as it sounds. Within seconds the recovery driver must work out the level of knowledge of the broken down driver. Does he know his transmission? Brake fluid levels? Basic grasp of gear box mechanics?

He can then create a problem at just the right sweet spot to engineer the need for a tow.

One of the key skills is listening to a drivers response. If you repeat anything back to the recovery driver, followed by 'of course', you're getting a tow.

For example-

Recovery driver- 'It's not your clutch, but the slave disc'
Driver- 'ahh, the slave disc, of course'

Vocabulary-

This follows on nicely. To truly ensure that the broken down driver is fully aware of the situation and all the possibilities it is important to be clear and concise with the information provided.

The recovery driver does this by simply appending the phrases 'do you know what I mean', 'yeah', and 'obviously', to the end of each sentence.

If at any point this information is not clear to the befuddled driver it is acceptable to follow a similar procedure to that of conversing with a foreigner. Repeat the sentence, slower, and louder, with extra emphasis on the start of each word.

To consistently follow this approach requires dedication and practice.

Knowledge of cars-

Another obvious one, but stretching beyond just fixing them. The recovery driver will at as many points as possible attempt to engage his victim, sorry, broken down driver, with recourse on all things motoring.

This normally starts with a car he had at an improbably young age, followed by tales of several projects. The climax is the story of the 'project car'. In Simon's case it was a Lexus with a full racing kit. Enthralling. Not only is finite detail required of what type of brakes it has, but mockery of any other Lexus, or modified car for that matter.

To accomplish this it is as just as easy as adding 'Halfords' and any profanity-

Halfords + wanker = Halfords wanker
Halfords + bastard = Halfords bastard

and so on.

Sexism-

We're into the meat and drink of it now. This skill sounds like an easy one, well I can tell you it's not. The various levels of sexism required are truly staggering.

There's the standard 'phwoar' comments, and wolf whistling, but you'll need to push beyond that.

I'll share an example-

Simon and myself are driving down the road. He had already pointed out that we would have to pull over after a mile to check the tow rope.

Unbeknownst to me Simon spots a lady walking down the pavement nearest to me. Quick as a flash he says-

'I'll pull up here so you can get a good eyeful of this bird'.

I'm assume it's some sort of test as the lady in question is somewhat overweight, and not that attractive. My mind panics, not wanting to offend the maniac driving me, do I feign joy? After all he might be a chubby chaser.

Before I can respond he chuckles and follows up with-

'See that big bag on her shoulders? Full of her sandwiches, the fat cow'.

I nervously laugh as Simon hops out.

You'll see that not only was imperative to target a woman, any woman, it was also important to put the broken down driver in a no win situation.

Another technique is to engage the victim (broken down driver) in a game of bets involving how many dings in cars have been self inflicted by women, and further more, how many involved stationary cars/objects.

Finally, and not to be underestimated, is the shouting at women from the safety of a speeding vehicle. The ability to take pleasure in the bemusement of a woman, who couldn't hear what was said, is a skill.

Casual Racism- 

'I was chatting some skirt up online, private messages in a chat room, yeah. Some other guy started chatting her up in the open forum. You know, one of them.

So I private messaged her, 'looks like you've pulled a paki'. She flew of the handle. I couldn't be dealing with that, silly bitch, yeah.

I told her that a gang of them stabbed my brother as a kid. She'd hate them too, if that had happened. She spouted some shit about white people doing the same, do you know what i mean'.

This is pretty much word for word what Simon told me during one part of the journey. He obviously started the conversation with 'I'm not a racist or anything', a stone cold example of how to implement casual racism.

Elaborate boasting guised through story telling-

A bit of a long winded skill, but none the less, important. A recovery driver must be able to begin a seemingly innocuous sounding story, and then finish with an improbable boast. This boast needs to either be so outlandish it can't be real, or completely misjudged in its tone.

Two perfect examples were provided by my muse for this post, Simon. The first tale was from his time in Ashford-

'I was leaving in Ashford, yeah. It was nice, I didn't mind it. I went out for beers one night, Pitcher and Piano I think, and I bumped into Vic, or Bob, you know the comedians, I can't remember which. One of lives down there you know.

Anyway I went and said hello as you do, couple of hours later he was buying me drinks. I was the funniest fucker in there, you see. Ended up being a right bender, you know what I mean?'

As you can see this tale starts quite innocently. A story of drinking in Ashford, where could it go from here? Of course, spending the night with a celebrity because of your wit. Fictional? More than likely.

'I was playing poker on Facebook and I was taking chips from one guy in particular. He was getting pretty pissed off so decided to have a go at me on the public chat.

I've been practising swearing all my life, so I didn't mind giving it back. He wanted to start something so I typed back 'come and get your spunk covered mum out of my fucking boot, she's stinking up the place', he didn't type back.

It was on the internet so you couldn't see anyone, but you could just tell that everyone else thought it was piss funny.'

This story really highlights the skill. Once again it starts off innocent, then quickly escalates to a degree of profanity that's exceptional. It finishes off with complete delusion at how other anonymous users would react to his statement.

This would be the hardest skill to master if it wasn't for....

Psychological disintegration-

The above skills help to feed into this one. The recovery driver must be able to quickly unsettle his victim and leave them utterly confused as to their own thoughts and feelings.

A passive aggressive technique is employed where genial banter is offered on the one hand, followed by veiled threats of violence should opposing opinions be ventured.

This leaves the victim in a awkward position where they have to agree with, in normal circumstances, some very extreme viewpoints.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

As you can see the skills required for this job are not easily found. You must really need to work on them. You can also probably tell that Simon was a truly amazing person.

Next time we'll look at the skills required to be a knicker sniffing plumber.

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