Three years ago we ditched our car. At first we wondered if we would feel bereft but the move has been a success with money saved, a contribution made to the fight against global warming, and no symptoms of car withdrawal. By using a mixture of walking, cycling, public transport, home delivery and the occasional ride in a taxi, managing our car-less state has rarely been a problem. And when difficulties do loom, as they did last week, it takes only minutes to hire a car from the local car club.
We had been invited out for dinner and had we used our usual transport arrangements we would have had to leave too early and get back too late, so we booked a Toyota Yaris Hybrid automatic through the club. The car is parked just down the road. It looked spick and span sitting in its dedicated space though, as always, things needed to be done before we could drive off.
While my wife was in the front seat searching for the key fob and entering the password, I had opened a rear door and was putting my coat and various bags on the back seat. However, something caught my eye. There on the seat was an ill-defined object about the size of a face flannel. It was, I thought, either a scarf or a beret left, presumably, by the previous user.
It turned out to be neither of these. With the help of Rohan’s more acute night vision, it became clear that the object was in fact a scrunched-up pair of ladies knickers. They were black and scarlet, lacy and racy, possibly of silk and tightly rolled up, as if hurriedly removed. No matter their history, their presence offended me and somehow they could not go ignored. As I saw it, touching them was not an option, so I used a newspaper to flick them on to the car floor.
How did they come to be there? There were clues that might narrow the possibilities. Had they been removed inside the car? As it happens, tinted rear windows are a standard fitting in this particular car allowing for a degree of privacy. But, despite its grand title, this model of Toyota is very cramped inside and the act of removing underwear would have required the remover to be lithe and agile, verging on the gymnastic. Second, the panties were on the expensive side. With that amount of silk and lace, I’m reliably informed that they will have cost around £20-30. To spend that sort of money and then leave them behind suggests the owner was probably well off.
So what was the explanation? One proposal, with few backers, is that the panties started falling down while their wearer was driving and to avoid an accident she hurriedly pulled them off and threw them over her shoulder. Their absence was overlooked when the car hire was over. A second suggestion, which came from a man with puritanical leanings, is that the driver was on her way to some sporting event and had needed to change in the car before her arrival. In the changeover the said panties fell out of her kit bag and on to the seat. A third explanation, the most popular amongst the lurid minded folk of Richmond, is that the panties were removed as a prelude to an episode in which the occupants were found in flagrante delicto and that in the aftermath their absence went unnoticed. With tinted windows and low cost hourly rental, the car would have made an ideal intimate rendezvous for a young couple with limited alternatives.
Whatever the explanation, we drew the lost property to the attention of the car company and next day received a note from the ‘clubhouse manager’ saying – ‘Please accept my sincere apologies. Rest assured that the previous member has had their account suspended whilst I investigate further as this is not acceptable member behaviour. I have added a £10.00 credit to your account for the inconvenience.’
The offer of credit is always welcome but perhaps the car club should stop using vehicles with tinted windows; and thus encourage the use of more comfortable and conventional changing facilities. Or am I just being old fashioned?