when i made that simple statement at the end of the previous post, ‘and then, at last, i was home,’ it wasn’t quite accurate.  because, while many aspects of this trip were wonderful and i loved seeing spain and scotland and all the good people we caught up with, let us not forget that it was also the Trip of Woe (see exhibits a, b, and c).  which is why it really shouldn’t surprise me that, just to round it all out, i’ve had to compose the following letter to the long-term parking company at the airport. (you may be surprised to learn that i can use capital letters when necessary.)
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Dear Company [name to be updated perhaps, depending how they deal with this],

Recently we parked our car with you for thirteen days while travelling in Europe.  We have used your service many times in the past and always been pleased with it.  However, on this occasion there was a serious problem.

When I landed on Monday morning (October 5), my flight had been delayed and I was unable to call and let you know due to a dead cell phone battery and misinformation from the people in the airport (who didn’t realize there was an 0800 number, which I also did not have – my own fault).  When I arrived at your parking office, there was some confusion, and at first I was told the keys to my car had been misplaced, and then that my car itself was not parked where expected.  In all, it took about 25 minutes for my car to be retrieved from the time I arrived, which in itself is not a source of major complaint given the delayed flight, although it was inconvenient as the weather was rainy and extremely cold, and I had been travelling for 36 hours.

However, when your driver brought the car around, he turned sharply into the lot by your office, dropping the left front tire into a deep puddle at the edge of the sealed road.  There was an audible and rather terrible scraping sound as the undercarriage hit the edge of the asphalt.  I did remark on this to the driver at the time, but he made a noncommittal noise and I did not press the issue, at that moment only wanting to get home.

When I climbed into the driver’s seat, the oil light was on and the oil warning alarm sounded as I drove out of the lot.  (We had been aware of a very gradual oil leak, having found a few drops of oil occasionally, but not regularly, on the floor of the garage at home.  My husband had checked the oil a few weeks before leaving and had noted that it was getting low, but not urgently so, and the oil light had not come on before he left.)  I took the car straight to the Shell station near the airport to check the oil and top up if need be, and asked their associated mechanic to check that the car was all right before driving home.  He refilled the oil (3.5 litres were required) and checked under the car, where he observed, entirely unprompted, that there was a brand-new scrape under the oil pan that had caused a significant crack, from which oil was now dripping at a steady and alarming rate.  He explained that the damage had to be very recent (less than a day old), since the scraped aluminium had not oxidised at all and no dirt had accumulated over the scrapes.  He was concerned at the rate at which the oil was draining and advised me to drive straight to my home mechanic, possibly not even dropping my luggage off at home, in case I ran out of oil again.

The car was duly brought to our mechanic, who has now (after three days in the shop, including one day when the buses were on strike) fixed the leak to his satisfaction.  He confirmed that the rapid oil leak was due to very recent damage to the car’s undercarriage.  Both mechanics are willing to be contacted and will stand by this information.

We ask that you cover the cost of repairing the damage done to our car by your driver.  This includes the labour charge for the repair ($128) and the cost of the oil required to get the car home (4 litres, $97.02).  We will happily provide the receipts if necessary and the contact details of both mechanics if you wish to follow this up with them.

Please feel free to contact us if you require any further information.

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and, update:  no word from parking company, but there is still a slow oil leak, plus – bonus! – i found a fresh puddle of coolant under the car yesterday morning.  awesome.

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