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Confused by meerkats

It’s assumed men know their way around cars simply because of their masculinity. By the same token females aren’t given as much credit when it comes to automobile maintenance due to sexual stereotyping that dates back to the invention of the wheel. I’m hardly courting controversy when I suggest mechanics are more likely to pull the wool over the eyes of a female customer as opposed to a male. While not trying to justify this imbalance I’m very grateful for the undue respect I’m given, for the simple reason that I am one such male who doesn’t know his carburettor from his ejector seat button.

I’m lost when it comes to cars. Simply lost. I know the correct way to operate one, but expose me to any of the working parts and I will be simultaneously baffled and intimidated.

Which brings me neatly to the phenomenon I’m aiming to discuss: How come, where the inner workings of a car are concerned, men are assumed to be more knowledgeable than women, yet when it comes to the world of car insurance, people of every sex, race and background are lumped into the same broad category as folks who haven’t the first clue what they’re at.

One of the most popular websites for finding good deals on car insurance is Confused.com.

I hope I’m not alone in viewing Confused.com as a bit of an affront to a person’s intelligence. Its name alone means, if you want to log on to this website, you are forced to make an admission of weakness.

“Confused.com?” asks the website. “Yes,” answers the user. “Not only am I confused, but I’m also scared to admit it. And while I’m at it I must also confess that I wear glasses to make me look more intelligent and furthermore I never fully understood the ending of the Sixth Sense.”

Confused.com is nothing short of a smug psychiatrist offering a couch for our insecurities while taking our hard earned cash to tell us what we should already know.

And the alternatives don’t exactly treat the customer with that much intelligence either: a moustachioed opera singer and a talking meerkat with his own line in merchandise. The frivolity makes no sense. Car insurance is a serious business. If you don’t have it you could find yourself in court with a hefty fine or a prison sentence.

Perhaps that’s not enough of a deterrent for those people who take the risk of driving without insurance. Maybe in this upsidedown world a better enforcement method would be the threat that offenders will be tracked down by an angry meerkat and pelted with rancid fruit and berries.

Then afterwards they’d be given the chance to purchase a limited edition bumper sticker.

Dark Lord wreaks havoc

Last Tuesday night I was working late so decided to crash at my parents’ house in Lurgan rather than make the long journey back to Belfast where my wife and child were already asleep. While I was staying over I did a bit of a clean out of my former bedroom.

When I left the house the following morning my car boot was filled with a bag of old football shirts and two bags of fancy dress outfits as well as other junk I’d left to gather dust over the years.

On Wednesday evening while driving home from work I heard a gruff, abrasive noise coming from the car every time I applied the brakes. I began to get very worried. As I said earlier I haven’t a clue when it comes to the DNA of an automobile, but my guess was there was a problem with the brake pads.

The noise persisted until I stopped at a set of traffic lights close to the M3 and a distinctive voice said, “I am your father”.

It suddenly dawned on me where the noises had been coming from. In the fancy dress bag in the boot was my Darth Vader mask which emits authentic soundbites from the Dark Lord. Something must have been pressing against the voice activation part of the mask every time I slowed down. The sound I was hearing that I thought was faulty brake pads was Vader’s trademark heavy breathing. It was only when he uttered the immortal “I am your father” line that he gave the game away.

And so the panic of having to take my car to a mechanic was over. Especially considering my embarrassment when he would have found the source of the problem to be the disembodied head and voice box of Darth Vader stowed in my boot.

Worse still if Karen had taken the car to get fixed the mechanic would have clocked her as a female and very likely chanced his arm and told her the brake pads needed replaced.

Weekly teaser

Last week’s answer was: Mount Everest.

Here’s this week’s teaser: In a garden there are 20 trees. One of the trees is a pear tree containing a number of pears. After a strong wind blows there are neither pears on the tree nor pears on the ground. How is this so?