The Old Blog And Bone

You may recall that, in June last year, I had something of a disagreement with Ford over a fault on my Kuga, and their subsequent ‘handling’ of the situation (#29 – ‘Once Upon A Blog’).

I then explained in a later entry (#39 – ‘We Blog Any Car.Com’), that I was thinking of changing my car, and would not be returning to Ford as a result of their terrible customer service – and the fact that they have no idea how to fix their own cars. I went on to say that, unfortunately, Ford are not alone in having pissed me off, and so once I had discounted all of the manufacturers who have upset me over the years, there weren’t many left to choose from when buying my new motor.

One thing was for certain, I definitely would not be going back to Volkswagen. Not only were they appalling when I had my previous Golf and Golf Plus (the latter of which packed up spectacularly – and expensively – on the A50 just outside Derby), their global reputation is currently in tatters over the emissions scandal. No, there was no way I was buying a VW.

Fast forward to January, and I became the ‘proud’ over of a Volkswagen Tiguan. I’m such a two-faced git.

I won’t go in to my reasoning for such a dramatic change of opinion, but suffice to say I was glad to be rid of the Kuga. It was a lovely looking car, and very nice to drive when it wasn’t faulty, but it seemed to be jinxed and I wanted a change. Of course, the fact that all of my previous cars, without exception, were also jinxed, at no point led me to conclude that perhaps the problem might actually be me.

So, I now drive a VW Tiguan. I affectionately call it ‘Tiggy’, although I’m not entirely sure why, as there isn’t a great deal of affection there so far.

Look, it’s ok. It’s nothing special, just ok. It’s not quite as nice to drive as the Kuga, but to date – touch wood – it hasn’t chosen to accelerate towards a tree all by itself, so on the ‘trying to kill me’ front, it’s currently Tiggy 1-0 Kuga (or the other way around, depending on how you view it).

One thing I do miss about the Kuga, however, was the in-built phone system. It was ridiculously easy to use, but even better it actually understood what I was saying. I know that’s the whole point of voice-recognition software, but as anyone who has ever tried to book cinema tickets over the telephone will tell you, voice-recognition systems never, ever, work. Kuga’s did though.

Of course, VW being the miserly bastards that they are, my Tiguan doesn’t have a phone system (despite being three years newer than the Kuga). Apparently, I should be grateful that VW were kind enough to equip it with windows and wheels, such is their stingy approach to kitting cars out. I’m pretty certain they’re still making cars with tape players fitted in them.

Anyway, had I never had the luxury of the Kuga’s excellent in-built phone system, I might not have taken it for granted – and then missed it when it was gone. However, it was so handy to have, and so efficient, that the absence of a similar system in the Tiguan immediately soured what should have been the joyous first few months of driving a new car (you know, until the stench of wet dog and the ‘that better be fucking chocolate’ child stains appear).

I started researching similar systems online, to try and get one installed into Tiggy as soon as possible, and judging by the reviews, my best bet was to go for a ‘Parrot’ system. I made some enquiries at Halfords, who informed me that I would need to travel to The People’s Republic of Stoke-on-Trent to have one fitted by a specialist technician, and off I went.

I opted for a mid-range product, as I wanted to replicate what I had in the Kuga as closely as possible, and this seemed to be my best bet. It came with a little screen that affixes to your dashboard – so you can see incoming and outgoing calls – and a remote control (essentially a dial, a ‘green’ phone symbol and a ‘red’ phone symbol) which I decided to have ‘fixed’ to the window controls to my right hand side whilst driving.

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I say ‘fixed’, but it remained in place for all of three miles before dropping off onto the floor, and so far I haven’t found anything sticky enough to secure it back on again. VW, it would seem, like to make their car interiors as slippery as possible (to prevent drug use?) and I’m rather reluctant to superglue the little plastic bastard back into place.

I had contemplated giving Isaac a lollipop to suck, as the last time we did that he became almost entirely adhesive from top to bottom, and I could perhaps harness some of that stickiness for the car, but I haven’t got around to it yet. So, for now, the control sits in one of the many drinks holders by the handbrake (the Germans don’t like you to be making and receiving calls whilst driving, but they do at least ensure you can have 14 drinks on the go at any one time).

To be honest, I can live with this. Even if I never find anything sticky enough to secure the remote control back into place by the window, I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it. What I cannot live with, however, is a phone system which makes it so unbelievably difficult to make and receive calls, that I would be far better securing my messages to a carrier pigeon, and then hurling the disease-ridden-rat-with-wings out of the window while driving.

At least if the company had called the product a ‘Pigeon’, I would have been expecting something large, irritating and mostly pointless, but I naively thought that the ‘Parrot’ was so-named because it would understand me and my voice, and I would be able to converse with it (and therefore my family and friends) hassle-free. Silly me. Apparently, it is actually called a ‘Parrot’, because it is colourful, won’t stay put for more than a minute, and is fucking hopeless at making telephone calls.

I shall give you an example. The other week, I was travelling to County’s last game of the season with Ollie, and we were due to meet a friend of mine – who we shall Tim because, well, that’s his name – in one of Stockport’s fine watering holes.

As we left the M60 to come into Edgeley, I decided to use the Parrot system to call Tim and find out where he was. The conversation (once I had rooted around by the handbrake – and in amongst my many drinks – to press the green button) went thus:

Parrot:  “Who would you like to call?”

Me:        “Tim.”

Parrot:  “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?”

Me:        “Tim.”

Parrot:  “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?”

Me:        “Stop apologising. Call TIM.”

Parrot:  “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?”

Me:        “Ollie, cover your ears a second…. CALL TIM, YOU PIECE OF SHIT!”

Parrot:  “There’s no need to use language like that. Who would you like to call?”

Me:        “Sorry. Please, please call Tim. Please.”

Parrot:  “Did you want to call… Joe McElderry?”

Me:        “NO, I DON’T WANT TO FUC…. Wait, what? Joe McElderry? The guy who won X-Factor about ten years ago? Do you have his number? Go on then, yeah, phone Joe McElderry smart-arse.”

Parrot:  “I’m sorry, I did not understand that. Goodbye.”

Having taken a few minutes to calm down before Ollie learned some new curse words, I then realised my mistake. There are two ‘Tims’ in my phone, so the Parrot inevitably wanted a surname as well. That still doesn’t explain how it had Joe McElderry’s number, especially when I sure as hell don’t, but I decided to try again:

Parrot:  “Who would you like to call?”

Me:        “Tim *******” (I’ve omitted his surname, before you think that it is either a swear word, or just a line of symbols. He’s not Prince.)

Parrot:  “Would you like to call, Tim *******”

Me:        “What a good idea. Yes, let’s call him.”

Parrot:  “I’m sorry, can you repeat that?”

Me:        “YES! YES! YEESSSSS! For the love of everything holy, call Tim now, you utter cockwomble.”

Parrot:  “Calling Tim *******”

Me:        “Thank you. Dickhead.”

Parrot:  “What did you call me?”

Me:        “Never mind. Just call Tim, and I promise I won’t crush you under my foot as soon as we’re parked up.”

Eventually, the system started to dial Tim, and shortly afterwards he answered. Unfortunately, because the phone system is terrible, even when the volume is turned up as high as it can go (and this has led to some deafening, and rather embarrassing, Taylor Swift songs being blasted out of the car when any call has been terminated), and because Tim was currently walking through Stockport in the lashing wind and rain, we really struggled to hear each other:

Me:        “Hi mate, whereabouts are you?”

Tim:       “I’m walking.”

Me:        “How delightfully vague. Are you on your way to the pub?”

Tim:       “I can’t hear you very well. I’m going to the pub.”

Me:        “Which one?”

Tim:       “Eh?”

Me:        “WHICH ONE?”

Tim:       “I’m going to the pub.”

Me:        “Got that bit. Which one?”

Tim:       “It’s raining.”

Me:        “I know that mate, I’m about five minutes away. Which pub are you going in?”

Tim:       “I’m just heading there now.”

Me:        “Yes, I get that, but to WHICH ONE?!”

Tim:       “About 2pm.”

Me:        “Never mind, we’ll go in all of them until we find you.”

Tim:       “I’ll see you in the pub.”

I decided to hang up before I lost the will to live. It wasn’t Tim’s fault (many things are, usually ending up with me suffering with a chronic hangover, but this time he wasn’t to blame).

Still, the entire conversation provided huge amusement for Ollie, who couldn’t breathe from laughing, and had tears streaming down his face.

The system is as equally useless when trying to answer calls too. You would think that the appropriate answer to the question “Incoming call from ********. Would you like to take the call?” would be either “yes” or “no” wouldn’t you? Well, either that’s not the case, or I have such a strong regional accent (as is often the way with people from mid-Cheshire), that it cannot understand me.

Actually, it’s neither. I have come to the conclusion that the system understands my non-accented voice perfectly well, it’s just that it enjoys messing me about. Apparently, we got off on the wrong foot (something about being called a cockwomble), and it hasn’t forgiven me since.

I know this for a fact, because I recently had an incoming call from my wife, and having answered ‘yes’ at least three times with no success, it then decided to accept “Fine, don’t accept the call then…” as a suitable response to connect me, so that my other-half, once connected, immediately heard me shout “… you useless piece of shit, why don’t you just fuck off so I can get a better one?” You can imagine how well she took that.

I even tried answering in German once, to see if that made any difference to our apparent language-barrier, before I realised that it’s the car which is German, not the phone system. Besides, I can only remember how to ask where the Town Hall is anyway.

Actually, I’ve just checked (out of curiosity more than anything), and it transpires Parrot is in fact a French company based in Paris. Presumably it is pronounced ‘Pah-roh’ then.

No wonder it doesn’t work properly.

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