When I went from the busy world of High Street retail motor parts to a small and remote Rover dealer, the customer base couldn’t have been more different between he two. On one hand, the nature of the game involved selling audio systems and styling parts through to oil and brake pads for local taxi drivers, but on moving over into retail Rover dealer parts, it was all Unipart screenwash and popping new tail light bulbs into Metros. I can still remember the part number, GLB-380!
During office hours we would be stuffed to the gunwales with workshop activity servicing local company cars from nearby Milton Keynes or Northampton, but Saturday mornings were a different affair and the weekday havoc changed to a serene environment in very nice surroundings. A colleague used to say that Saturday mornings were the time when the ‘coffin lids would creak open’ and our Reception would throng to the sound of clicking walking sticks and the faint aroma of TCP and Murray Mints.
All the mature folk in the plethora of nearby villages would bimble down to us in their immaculate Maestros and Rover 800s and virtually all of them were lovely people. Sadly, thinking about it now, many of them will have probably moved on to a better world. For an early twenties lad, this was a strange place to be and the dealership’s steadfast refusal to diversify and really make a killing by just being a touch more aggressive was ultimately its eventual undoing… but that’s another story.
We had one old chap I can remember today with more clarity than the picture on a Ferguson TX television and his name was Jeffrey Lamb. To digress for a moment, I subsequently ended up working in the same group as his Grandson just a few years ago and only just recently found out he had sadly passed away at the ripe old age of 91. Jeff drove a simply showroom condition Montego LX diesel which, again looking back, quite possibly explains his shocking hearing.
Dealing with Jeff was akin to Mrs Richards in the ‘Fawlty Towers’ episode Communications Breakdown – if you have never seen this, do some You Tubing, it really is comedy of gold standard. Deaf as a post, he used to pop in every other week buying polish or washer fluid as well as having the car serviced, but again in hindsight I think he just came by for some company. Well, one day he ambled onto the forecourt and wombled into the Service/Parts Reception requiring assistance on his mint Monty.
However, this time we didn’t have to jump and scream to put our words across as he proudly tapped the side of his head to show the world that (mutton) Jeff now sported a hearing aid. His issue revolved around his brakes – they were squealing but having no one free on the ramps I offered him a coffee until one of the duty fitters was free. A short while later, the mechanic summoned my attention for a quiet word, ‘can’t get so much of a murmur from the brakes’ or something along those lines, he said.
He had though, taken off the front wheels, cleaned up the calipers and copper-slipped the pad backings as a precaution. This was was explained, a small sum was taken and Jeff bode us all a hearty farewell. Shortly before midday as we were winding down he came back with a face like a boiled lobster playing blue murder his car was no better if not worse. This time, I drove the car and, as the fitter had told me before, not even a grumble or a judder – the car anchored up foursquare and silently.
Jeff seemed confused as to why it wouldn’t play up for me and, with slight anger out of acute embarrassment on his part, he told me to swap seats and he would show me. Driving along the winding B-road that lead to the middle of nowhere, we swept round this fairly tight left hand bend. The Monty rolled into the bend and there was certainly a squeal – very faint it might have been, but there was most definitely a squeal. I wanted to laugh out load as right away I knew what the issue was.
When the car was thrown into the left hander, Jeff’s head would lean towards the driver’s window and, just as when you hold an electric guitar too close to the amplifier or a microphone to proximal to a loudspeaker, that caused feedback from the sound reproduction equipment – the suspected brake noise was Jeff’s hearing aid whistling. This was demonstrated when I told him to stop the car and hold his flat palm close to his right ear – he laughed so much he almost cried.
Heading back to the dealership, I suggested that he should turn the volume control down on his aid when driving and, on our return, he shook my hand very firmly and greased it with a crispy £10 note – lovely stuff!
Jeffery Lamb 1922-2013