The breakup

The breakup

TRUST can be a fragile thing. It takes a long time to establish, but a moment to destroy. And when it’s gone there’s often no getting it back.

A betrayal of trust is worse when it’s committed by someone you’ve known for a long time. When you think you really know someone it hits you twice: once by shattering your presumptions; and then again by making you feel like a fool for not having recognised it could even happen.

A relationship can be purely transactional, when each side approaches the other with simple needs and knows what it wants and goes into it for that reason and that reason alone. I’ve done that often enough and it’s fine as far as it goes. But it’s impossible to build a meaningful, long-term relationship in the absence of trust.

A relationship breakdown is invariably traumatic, and it leads to a form of grieving. For everyone it’s different but the recognised stages are denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. We all go through them, in a different order and for different periods of time, but we experience them all. Knowing it doesn’t make it any easier.

And at first I turned a blind eye to some of the things that were going on. An odd charge on the credit card here, an evasive answer about some other expense there. I dismissed it as my imagination and assumed an innocent explanation. But slowly, over a number of months, it started to add up to something bigger.

It’s part and parcel of running a mini-fleet of cars, some of which are aged and temperamental, that they cost money to keep going. And so last week I broke up with my long-term automotive partner and mechanic. Well, with his business, anyway – he left it a couple of years ago after selling it to a number of his apprentices and assistants, who pledged to carry it on in good faith. That didn’t last very long.

The final straw was about a month ago when one of the cars went in for its annual service and came out with a list as long as my arm of things in apparent need of urgent attention.

‘You don’t have to be Adrian Newey to recognise that an item that had lasted on one car for 25 years should not need to be replaced on the same car twice in three years.'

Initially I accepted the list because I trust the shop. Over many years, it’s looked after me well, and my cars are in great condition because of the love and attention they’ve received.

The funny thing is, some of the things on the list seemed a bit familiar. I’m no great record-keeper, but I do have a half-decent memory. I also have half a clue about some mechanical issues and you don’t have to be Adrian Newey to recognise that an item that had lasted on one car for 25 years should not need to be replaced on the same car twice in three years. Yet that’s what they were suggesting.

So I did something I’ve never done with this garage before: I queried them. And that’s when things got really ugly. I have never felt so patronised in my life. I was talked down to, condescended to, and treated like a child. Mechanical issue are complicated I was told – the subtext being that they are too complicated for me to understand. Well, that might be true, but I know over-servicing and over-charging when I see it.

This raised an interesting issue. Either I was charged three years ago for work they didn’t do, or I was about to be charged now for work that didn’t need to be done. Either they lied to me then, or they were lying to me now. Which was it, I asked. They didn’t like that. They tried to pass off the previous workshop receipt as a typo.

When I queried another supposed necessary repair I was told they’d take another look – and lo and behold they came back and told me – unconvincingly – that they had taken a rag and given the component a bit of a clean and in fact it didn’t need to be replaced at all.

So, I’m done. Trust has been destroyed. I have no confidence In this workshop or the people who run it. I will not be going back. And I’m back out there looking for a new partner.