全球变暖?我的汽车正在融化!/ Global Warming? My Car is Melting!

全球变暖?我的汽车正在融化!

我不是所谓的“汽车控”,但这些年我有幸拥有过一些好车。

这极大地改变了我刚毕业时简约的生活方式,那时候我只拥有两种交通工具:一辆自行车,一只独木舟。

对“汽车控”来说,车辆的选择是他们个人身份地位的重要外延,也是他们自我评价的重要表达。就像一双巨大的鞋、一顶帽子或者一个钱包,能够自豪地表达出身份和格调。

汽车的广告营销就利用了这一心理。看看中国车展,跑车旁的车模们越来越吝惜身上穿的布料了,似乎在暗示只要拥有这款车,就能拥有这些姑娘。

对我来说,汽车不过是一种交通工具。它要有漂亮的外观,大容量的后备箱,安全愉悦的驾驶感,还不能是“油老虎”或者“大烟囱”(这一点越来越重要)。但它并不是显示个人风格或身份特别重要的东西。

总之,谁会去我家的停车场,指着我的车说:“看,这就是汤姆的车!真是什么人开什么车啊!瞧瞧这轮胎,再瞧瞧这保险杠。”

我现在开的是一辆玛莎拉蒂,是我的第一辆意大利车。我必须承认,这车的外观太经典了。

我喜欢意大利菜、意大利设计、意大利时装,还有其他很多关于意大利的东西。我信奉天主教,教皇就生活在意大利。米开朗基罗是意大利人,马可•波罗也是。(关于他到底是把意大利面传到了中国,还是把中国的面条带回了意大利,人们至今仍争论不休。)

那我不喜欢意大利什么呢?

几年前我打算换辆新车,一时兴起就和太太挑了辆玛莎拉蒂。那天我们本是去找一家家具店,结果路上偶然经过玛莎拉蒂的展厅。因为非常喜欢那辆车的外观,于是我们就买了下来。自此,我们很享受它带来的驾驶乐趣,车子的表现也一直良好。

在弹丸之地香港,我们这辆车三年里总共才开了1万公里,说出来都让人笑话,简直是太委屈这辆好车了。可是,香港的路就只有那么多,而通往澳门的大桥还需要几年才能建成。

而在世界其他地方,有时只要几个月车子就能跑上1万公里。

不管怎样,直到不久前我们对这辆车都没有任何不满,无论是机械还是其他方面。后来,在炎热的亚热带夏季将要结束的一天,我开车时发现仪表盘上的一些显示盘和开关都粘糊糊的。

我反复试用了各种清除粘渍的方法,但都不起作用。很快,情况越变越糟,我的玛莎拉蒂似乎就要融化掉了!

我打电话给经销商,结果意外听说这个问题在玛莎拉蒂和(她的姐妹品牌)法拉利汽车中相当普遍,似乎那些车的仪表盘按钮和刻度盘也有融化的倾向。

我咨询的那位经销商员工再三向我保证:“这只是个小问题”,他们可以更换饰面,让它看起来跟新的一样。

而他所谓的“小”问题,牵扯到一张约2,000美元的维修帐单和10-14天的工时。

这明显是个促狭的问题,如果你问价格,你很可能根本就负担不起。而如果你担心两周没有车开,那你肯定就是穷得只有一辆车。

所以经销商是对的,对普通玛莎拉蒂和法拉利车主来说,这的确只是个小问题。请问意大利语的“小问题”怎么说?

我问这种仪表盘融化的现象是不是今年夏季异常高温所致。答案是否定的,其实这个问题已经困扰玛莎拉蒂和法拉利好多年了。

这和我最初对这个问题成因的猜测有所不同,原来它根本不是全球变暖的产物。

据经销商说,香港路上跑的玛莎拉蒂和法拉利迟早都会返回店里更换仪表盘饰面。

我必须承认这的确出人意料。如果买的是一张匹萨饼,我当然希望奶酪会融化,但我买的可是一辆意大利汽车,我怎么可能想到它也会融化呢!

(由此我发现了一个新商机:设计制造一些时尚的降温袋,包裹在意大利汽车的仪表盘上,防止它融化。)

写这篇博客的时候,我的车正在车间维修。

再提醒一遍自己:“这只是个小问题。”

Global Warming? My Car is Melting!

I’m not what you’d call a typical male car freak, although I’ve been fortunate to own some nice autos over the years.

This was a big change in lifestyle from my simpler, immediately post-college era, when I owned just two tools of transport: a bicycle and a canoe.

For “car guys”, the choice of their automobile(s) is an important extension of the personal identity they wish to project, an important statement about how they see themselves. Kind of like a giant pair of shoes, hat, or man purse. A proud statement of status and style.

Auto marketers exploit this psychology in their advertising and promotion. Just look at the ever-more-scantily-clad models surrounding sporty cars at China’s car shows. The subliminal message is clear: own this car, and get these girls.

To me, a car is more of a transport tool. It needs to look nice, have decent trunk space, be safe and fun to drive, and (increasingly) not be an excessive fuel guzzler or polluter. But it’s not a particularly important statement of personal style or identity.

After all, who’s going to visit my regular parking space in the building where I live and say “Hey. There’s Tom’s car! What a clear statement of what he’s all about. Look at those tires. Check out the bumper.”

The car I am currently driving is a Maserati. It’s the first Italian car I have owned, and I must admit, it’s a very classy looking vehicle.

I like Italian food, Italian design, Italian fashion, and a lot of other things about Italy. I am a Catholic. The Pope lives in Italy. Michelangelo was Italian. Marco Polo came from Italy ( Whether he first introduced Italian pasta to China, or brought Chinese noodles to Italy, is still a matter of some debate).

What’s not to like about Italy?

When it was time to get a new car a few years ago, my wife and I opted for a Maserati on the spur of the moment. We happened to walk past the showroom one day while looking for a furniture store. We liked the look of the car, and bought one. We’ve enjoyed driving it ever since, and it has performed very well.

In tiny Hong Kong, we’ve driven a total of something like 10,000 kilometers in three years. This is a ridiculous under-utilization of such a fine automobile, but there are only so many miles of road in Hong Kong, and the bridge to Macau won’t be completed for another few years.

In many other parts of the globe, people drive 10,000 kilometers in a matter of months.

Anyway, until very recently, we had virtually no complaints about the car, mechanical or otherwise. Then one day towards the end of our hot subtropical summer, while driving the car, I noticed that some of the dials and switches on the dashboard were very, very sticky.

Repeated efforts to clean up the stickiness failed, and soon it spread and got worse and worse. Our Maserati seemed to be melting!

We called the car dealer and received the surprising news that this is actually a very common problem with Maserati and (their sister) Ferrari automobiles in hot climates. Apparently, buttons and dials on their dashboards have an unfortunate tendency to melt.

The dealer employee I spoke with reassured me several times that this is a minor problem, and they could fix it to look like it was brand new by removing the old finish and resurfacing it.

His definition of “minor” as in “minor problem”, involves a repair bill roughly equivalent to US2,000, and 10 to 14 days in the repair shop.

This is clearly one of those situations where if you need to ask the cost, you probably can’t afford it. And if you’re concerned about not having use of your car for two weeks, you must be one of those poor folks who have only one car.

So, he’s right. It’s actually a minor problem for the average Maserati or Ferrari owner.

How do you say “minor problem” in Italian?

I asked whether or not this melting dashboard phenomenon is a product of this year’s unusually hot weather. Answer: no, this is a perennial problem which has affected Maseratis and Ferraris for quite a few years.

So, contrary to my first speculation about the possible cause of the problem, it’s not a global warming thing after all.

According to the dealer, sooner or later almost all the Maseratis and Ferraris on the road in Hong Kong have to be brought into the shop for a refinishing of the dashboard.

I must admit this came as an unexpected surprise. When I order a pizza, I expect the cheese part to be melted, but the same expectation did not apply when I bought an Italian car.

(New business opportunity: design and produce a line of stylish looking cooler bags to cover and protect Italian car dashboards from melting.)

My car is in the repair shop as I write this.

Reminder to self: this is a minor problem.


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