Design Flaw


This is a photograph of a Volvo C30–the kind of car Laura got a year and a half ago.  It’s one of the reasons she got any semblance of her groove back, whatever that means, and while she’s a little embarrassed to admit that she has always derived a little too much pleasure from attractive cars, she has to say that after having spent practically a whole year in bed after her surgery, getting this car gave her a real jolt.

Of course, it’s kind of a “young-person’s” car — meaning, because it’s a two-door, low-to-the-ground hatchback, you need the abs and biceps of a 40-year-old to get in and out (Laura’s 47 and her abs, well, let’s not go there). It’s not a sofa-sized-boat-like station-wagon, or a mini van, or an SUV (the latter two of which Laura is proud to say she’s never driven — not that there’s anything so great about admitting to having driven a station wagon) — and it’s kind of a drag sometimes, with Ben, having to have him climb in through the big heavy door, then push the seat forward so he can climb in back.  Kind of like the old days of Hebrew School carpool when somebody’s mom had a Chevy Nova or Dodge Dart — two-door coupes where you were constantly pushing the front seat-back forward in order to climb into the back and then out again. Only this isn’t the 70s anymore, and any perception of difficulty when it comes to cars and driving (what?! only two cup holders?!  what? no built-in GPS?? what?! no automatic iPod charger?!) is jarring and kind of unacceptable.

Not that Laura’s complaining.  Like she said already, she loves her car, and up until a few weeks ago she almost never saw other C30’s on the road.  She had the smug pleasure of not only driving around in her groove-supplying-mobile, but also feeling like she was really special because no one had the same car.  Sure, every now and then, a C30 would pass her on the highway and another goofy Volvo owner would smile and wave and honk — Hey! We have the same car!! — but most of the time she could go for days without seeing another one like hers.  It was especially convenient for parking lots — namely, for finding her car in a parking lot full of Nissans and Toyotas and Hondas and BMWs.  Her car didn’t look like the others and it made it was a lifesaver when she forgot where she parked.

OK.  So if you’re like Laura, you’re always waiting for the “but” when you’re listening to a story — especially to a relatively boring story like the one she’s been telling you about her C30.  And the “but” here is this:

There’s a design flaw.

The design flaw, which you can’t see from the photo, is that the front of the car is really really low to the ground.  So low to the ground, that probably the first week she got the car she hit one of those cement parking space blocks which made a really awful sound of metal scraping on cement sound that Laura had never heard before. By the second week she did it again, and by the third or fourth or fifth week she’d not only scraped the bottom of the front end but actually partially dislodged the front right bumper and bent it a little.  During a routine service trip to a nearby Volvo dealership, they managed — amazingly enough — to pop the bumper back in, and Laura was thrilled that she wasn’t going to have to pay some ridiculous amount of money to get that stupid bumper fixed.

Especially since it wasn’t really her fault because it was a design flaw.

So yesterday Laura takes her C30 in to that same Volvo dealership — drops it off in the morning for an oil-change and as they’re processing it and checking it in, the guy at the front desk makes a big face and asks her what happened to the front of her car.  So she tells him.

And then she adds:  “Well, you know, that low-front-end thing: it’s a real design flaw.”

You’d think she had said something really ridiculous, like — she can’t even actually think of what she could possibly have said to elicit the look the guy gave her — he practically laughed in her face — and, in fact, later on, when she picked up her car and was the last one there (there was also the matter of the pesky “check engine” light they had to figure out), the guy, who by now had become pretty friendly, actually admitted to Laura that he thought the “design flaw” comment was really funny.

“We had a good laugh about that after you left,” he said.

Oh really!  And thanks for sharing!!

Laura felt oddly validated: she sometimes suspects people have a good laugh at her expense after she leaves places, and this time, it was absolutely confirmed.  She left and all the guys at the Volvo placed laughed at the fact that she had the audacity to blame the giant front right lower bumper dent on a design flaw rather than on her lack of parking skill. She couldn’t help but think that it was one of those car-guy things — laughing at the pathetic lady-driver — but maybe they were taking umbrage at the fact that the pathetic lady-driver wasn’t taking responsibility for her own actions (as opposed to just finding her lack of parking skills laughable).

Laura feels like she spends most of her time taking responsibility for things that are her fault (a list too huge to start here) so on this one she’s just going to allow herself a fucking pass.  Design flaw or no design flaw, the front end is too low to the ground and she knows the minute she spends a ridiculous amount of money to get it fixed, she’s just going to do it again…


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