From April 25th 2010:
Advertisers are annoyingly good at their jobs.
For as long as I’ve been able to venture out on the roads of Britain – and for as long as I’ve listened to commercial radio while doing so – there have always been reassuring words from the employees of car windscreen repair firms. (Well, one firm specifically, and I bet you can guess which one). They’ve spent years telling me not to worry if a chip ever blights my view of the aforementioned roads; that my car insurance will probably cover it, and they will deal with all the paperwork.
When I first heard these adverts, however, they were missing a vital bit of information. Would my no-claims bonus be affected? I wondered. No sooner had I started to ask myself this question than – lo! – the reassuring voices started to include the answer in their forays onto the national airwaves. The advertisers had put my mind at ease again.
Like I say, annoyingly good.
It was all academic though. Miles and miles of driving, covering every corner of Great Britain, passed by with my windscreen deflecting the occasional errant stone like the shields of the Starship Enterprise deflect photon torpedoes. The radio commercials continued to reinforce how easily a chipped windscreen could become a cracked one, but never did I have cause to worry. I just marvelled at the fact that ‘Gavin’ and his fellow employees never became really annoying, when so many other commercials grated on my very soul even at the first time of listening.
I didn’t have cause to worry … until a few days ago, that is. A particularly vicious stone, thrown up by a motorbike, caused a chip and some accompanying fracture lines to appear on my windscreen’s previously impenetrable surface. The car’s defences were breached, and suddenly a new horror lurked on the horizon.
With the winter months well past, the regular advice from ‘Gavin’ about the danger of heating a cold, chipped windscreen was no longer pertinent. Instead, he had a new scare tactic with which to alarm me – potholes. One jolt from an uneven road surface could see my fragile windscreen splinter like the broken surface of an iced-over lake. I have to bump over a bit of a kerb to park outside my house, so was my driveway suddenly off-limits? How careful did I need to be?
I couldn’t take a chance. I didn’t want to believe that even the slightest deviation from smooth running could make things worse, but I also knew my chip needed sorting out. Frustrating as this was, the cumulative effect of all those adverts meant I immediately knew where to turn. Yeah, the advertisers are that good.
Sadly, ‘Gavin’ didn’t answer the phone when I rang to make an appointment, but Becky – whose name I was pretty sure must be real – was a more than adequate substitute. Albeit that at this point, matters took a slight turn for the absurd… Her first question centred on whether the chip was larger or smaller than a £2 coin. When I confirmed it was smaller, the conversation continued something like this:
Becky: “If you put a match head over the chip, would it cover it?”
“Yes,” I answered with confidence, despite not having a match to hand to make sure. “But there are some small fractures coming from the chip.”
“If you put a five pence coin over the chip, would it cover the fractures?” came the next question. I struggled with this, suddenly unable to visualise the size of a five pence piece. “I would guess so,” I said, confidence ebbing away.
“Can you measure it for me?” Becky asked, clearly sensing my uncertainty.
“Err, yeah.” By this time I was standing outside the house with nothing that would be commonly considered as useful for such a task. Then a mini brainwave occurred: “Shall I fetch a ruler, or are we okay sticking with coin-based measurements?”
“A coin is fine…”
I took out my wallet out and selected a range of coins. In truth, the whole experiment ended in something of an anti-climax, as a five-pence turned out to cover the blemish on my glass; a twenty-pence and a pound therefore returned to my pocket disappointingly unused. On the bright side – apart from not having to go and find a collection of old British coins from the mid-1980s so we could work out if the chip was bigger than a half-penny piece – all of this did at least allow us to establish that my windscreen could be repaired, albeit not for another three days.
“Is there anything I can do to reduce the risk of it cracking in the meantime?” I asked, mindful of the dire warnings given out by ‘Gavin’.
“Keep it covered at night, as the temperature can still drop quite low,” came the answer. “And you could put some sellotape over it…”
Presently, the conversation came to an end and, of all things, I dutifully applied a piece of sticky tape to the front window of my car. I suddenly found myself wishing that all the radio adverts that had led to this point had made clear that a working knowledge of the diameters of the various denominations of our stout British currency was a necessity should I ever suffer the misfortune of a chip. But then, if ‘Gavin’ spent his repeated half-minutes of airtime telling me that, I probably wouldn’t have gone to his company for help when I needed it.
Which is why advertisers have their job, and I don’t.