On The Road: Systems failure on South island
Saturday 24 January 2009
I take the bus from Dunedin to Invercargill, the last town of any consequence in New Zealand's South Island. I am going to get my van out of storage, where it has been for the past 15 months. It starts first time. Unbelievable. Massive celebrations. One hour later, I go to the post office to secure a new registration, thinking it'll just need backdating.
"Sorry, Mr Donald. ON7598 is no longer valid. It needs to be re-registered and new plates." Trying to keep the panic out of my voice, I ask, "How much is that, then?"
"Not sure, go to the AA. It's not cheap."
I go to stand in front of a smiley-faced young lady at the AA. She says, "Oh yes. That will be around NZ$1,000 (£385) Mr Donald. It needs a Vehicle Identification Number and a full test." I'm not sure if anyone saw my buttocks clenching, but everyone must have heard them.
I've got the same feeling as I head to the AA mechanic, who tells me, "Sorry, mate. Can't possibly do it till mid-January." I go to the VIN centre. They can't do it until February.
So, I'm facing six weeks in Invercargill, a visibly broken man. Instead I drive to Dunedin – illegally – wondering whether or not to remain so for the entire trip. But the fine is NZ$800 (£310). It's a no-win situation. And do I really think for a moment I wouldn't get stopped somewhere along the way?
It gets better. In Dunedin it's blowing a gale and lashing down. I find shelter in an internet café in a shopping mall and fire up the laptop. It crashes. I rush it to the IT hospital where it's pronounced DOA.
I'm reeling. A replacement will cost NZ$3,000 (£1,150). And that's not even the worst of it. All my research data and all my images are gone. I actually start to cry. A grown man standing in a quiet corner of the mall, sobbing.
The next person who tells me I've got the "best job in the world" will get my size-12 boot up their backside.
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