The Night I Had To Steal My Own Car At 3am From A Very Angry Man...
“Kilo 75 John?” the minicab controller said over the crackly radio.
I picked up the mouthpiece as I sat in my blue Ford Sierra just outside the office.
“Kilo 75 go ahead”
“77 Tivoli Road going to Heathrow Airport” he replied. I thought about it, I needed the money but I knew my car wouldn’t make such a long run.
“I can’t take that job mate, my engine was making some weird noises on the last job, I better just go home.”
I knew I needed a new car because being a mini cab driver had taken its toll on what was once my pride and joy but being a 31 year old man with no money in the bank, 4 children and a hamster called Charlie I knew I had to think of something fast.
The next day I scoured the adverts in the papers looking for a cheap car. I couldn’t ask my Dad to lend me money again, he always helped but bless him I doubt he had much left himself and I managed to pull together about a hundred quid.
And then I saw it...
Gold Ford Escort Mark 2
120,000 miles, New MOT
£100 drive away sold as seen
“It’s gold?” said my partner unhappily.
“I know” I said, “At least no one will see us coming, they’ll need sunglasses! Anyway only problem is it’s in North London.”
I rang the guy and he said I could collect it tomorrow but I asked if I could check it over first, give him the money and collect it the day after and he agreed.
The next day we set off with our baby boy while the older ones were at school. It was such a beautiful day and the sun was beating down, it was 61 degrees but I had no clue what was about to happen.
As I drove along chatting away we reached the Elephant & Castle. We still had a long way to go but to my horror steam started to pour out from the front of my car. I found a safe place to stop and as I lifted the bonnet I felt like Matthew Kelly was about to announce me on ‘Stars In Their Eyes’...
“Tonight Matthew I’m going to be a complete fucking loser!”
The radiator had overheated and now I needed to look at my options. Get the car towed home, I had no AA! But I only had £100, would it be enough. Option 2, I had a 2 litre bottle of water in the boot, I could refill the radiator, try to make it to north London and buy the other car? I chose the latter and filled up the radiator.
“I’m going to stop on the way and buy some more water” I told my partner who looked completely pissed off.
We then set out on a long journey where every ten to fifteen minutes the radiator would overheat, I’d pull over and use my stock of water bottles I’d bought to cool it back down while replenishing my water supplies anywhere I could along the route. Eventually after a very long time we got to the guy’s house and there outside was a gold, horror of a car.
“If I don’t buy it I can’t get back” I said to my partner and by now I think all she wanted to do was get back! A very big set older guy came out and I explained my predicament.
“I only brought £100 with me and I’ve spent so much on water I only have £68 left” I said. “How would you feel if I left my car with you plus £60, drove the gold one home and then returned on the train tomorrow with the other £40 and took my car back?”
“Okay” he said “But don’t fuck me about!” ‘Tetchy’ I thought as he demanded I put my car on his drive.
We got into the gold Ford Escort and drove off. My son had been so good but was now getting irritable and I just wanted to get my partner home so she could book the first flight out to Timbuctoo!
As we passed the Elephant & Castle again and began driving down Camberwell Road, it happened! Steam appeared from under the bonnet and began to pour out in the biggest, steamiest, oh my fucking god’est cloud you have ever seen.
“What the fucking fuck!” shouted my usually calm partner. I jumped out to find the radiator had burst. Running across the road to a payphone I phoned the car guy.
“Your car is faulty” I shouted
“It’s sold as seen” he shouted back “And you still owe me £40 see you tomorrow” he said as he slammed down the phone.
I had about £7 left to my name for a few more bottles of water but this time we weren’t going to make it and broke down in a side road somewhere in Camberwell. So I had a broke car I owed money on in Camberwell and a broke car on someone’s drive in North London and no more money. I rang the cab office where I worked and asked if any of the drivers could help me out and I’d owe them double fare another day and Errol agreed and came to get us and we dumped the gold, horror car where it died.
So what the hell was I going to do! I needed my car back, he’d ripped me off, how dare he but it was on his drive. That night I started out on a mission. My partner had £20 at home saved and she gave me it for my train fare so I got the last train to the station nearest to his house with a couple of bottles of water in a bag. After a long walk I reached his place about 1am but the living room light was on! I needed to lift the bonnet, put water in the radiator and start the engine without disturbing him and I didn’t even know if the car would even start. I told myself I had a chance as his drive was on a slope which at least would give me some momentum. So I sat on a wall and waited. The light went out about 1.30 and I then sat until nearly 3am waiting to be sure he was fast asleep.
Stealth like, I crept up to the drive and unlocked my car…’I’m stealing my own fucking car’ I thought!
I lifted the bonnet and quietly poured the water in while holding the bonnet up with my shoulder in case clicking it in place made a noise. As I put the bonnet back down the bedroom light came on ‘shit, shit!’
I jumped into the car and turned the key and it made that noise just like it does in the horror movies when the attacker is chasing the hero, it just kept turning over but didn’t start and then I heard from inside the house a roar, he sounded very unhappy. I imagined him running down the stairs so I had one last shot, use the slope. I got out and pushed my car forward and jumped in and as it rolled forward his front door burst open and my very angry friend came out swearing at the top of his voice. As I rolled, he ran and I kept turning the key but it wasn’t happening and then just as he reached the back of the car….broooom it started, I slammed my foot down and drove away as he went into the distance in my side view mirror.
After a similar drive home but less sporadic because the night time air kept the car pretty cool I reached the road called Beulah Hill which was exactly that, a steep hill which our road was further down near the bottom. As I sailed over the brow of the hill I will never forget the sound of my engine blowing up and I literally coasted down the hill as fast as possible, took a very fast left turn and as the car slowed to a halt it stopped exactly outside our flat and gave another loud bang as if to say… ‘Goodbye cruel world!’
The moral of this story? Life can seem to be against you so bad. It can feel as if it just left you in a huge pile of shit and won’t let you back out. It can almost seem like every day it can be conspiring against you but it’s not.
I was lazy, I didn’t want to work. I chose a shit job because I believed I had no value. I hung out with people whose sole aspirations were to get pissed on the weekend. Nothing wrong with that but then that is what you choose. I used to go to work, earn £20 and come home and lay on the sofa pretending there was no money out there but I was lying to myself, my partner and my young children and I was their role model. How did I go from that to running a 6 figure company? You guessed it, damn hard work. I sit here now writing this to you on a Saturday night in the hope it may inspire you. There have been so many days in the past 3 years where I worked 19 hours a day sometimes 7 days a week just to get it right, just to chase my dream. How about your dreams pal?
My gold, horror car was something I had prepared myself to tolerate until it blew up.
What about you, what are you simply tolerating? Don’t accept it, you have one life, own it.
Thanks for reading.