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Car & (tall) driver

September 25, 2004

At 6-feet 6-inches, I am probably taller than 98 percent of men. I always like to think of myself as the keeper of the upper limits of the human height spectrum, with Doctor Ruth or Danny De Vitto, down there guarding the lower limits. It is basically because of us that you people enjoy average stature and the inconspicuousness that comes with it.

Starting from the age of 11 or 12, back in Iran, I began having trouble finding clothes and shoes in my size. I was always at the mercy of the occasional travelers to the West (Europe and America) to bring me clothing items that would fit me. This obviously didn't happen frequently enough and as a consequence, I was always, what I would term, clothing-challenged.

Another issue that confronted me in those days was attempting to drive my father's company-issued Peykan automobile. I remember around the age of 15, I couldn't wait for my dad to get home from work for lunch and the obligatory siesta afterwards.

After making sure that he was sound asleep, I would silently reach into his coat pocket, grab the car keys and steal a couple of his Winston cigarettes and hit the streets of Tehran in a binge of aimless driving while smoking.

The trouble was, I could hardly fit in the damn car. I would roll the chair as far back as it went, and still, my knees would be touching the dashboard and my head pressed against the ceiling, flattening my Afro hairdo. From the outside, it looked as though I was sitting in the back seat.


Eight years ago, to celebrate my official arrival into the venerated domain of Yuppie-dom, I went to my neighborhood BMW dealer and bought me a Beamer. I was especially impressed by the three-way adjustable driver seat, which moved as far back as my heart desired, to the point where my knees actually fit below the adjustable steering wheel. This was awesome. This I had never experienced before. I bought the car on that account alone.

The back of my driver seat is within inches of the back seat, and as such, only elves would fit behind me. My kids throw tantrums every time they are forced to sit there, and we decided not to have a third child because there simply wouldn't be any room for it in the BMW.

A few weeks ago, I received a recall notice in the mail from BMW for the free-of-charge replacement of a defective part in the underside of the car.

I took the car in to my friendly neighborhood BMW dealer one fine morning for the necessary recall work. The service manager called me around noon, stating that, besides the prescribed work, my 8-year-old Beamer is in dire need of some additional repairs, totaling in cost to a mere $1500.

My response to him was quick and terse. "Just do the free work. I'll do the rest at a later time."

After reminding me of the perils of not doing the recommended work and the risks I will be taking by delaying the repairs, he finally relented and agreed to do the free work only.

When I picked up the car that afternoon, I realized the driver seat adjustments had been changed. This isn't unusual as most mechanics are not two-meter tall and their feet must necessarily reach the pedals if they are to drive the car for any reason. So I nonchalantly exited the dealership while trying to readjust the seat.

While driving down the street, I sensed that I was crunched up and not as comfortable as I would like to be behind the wheel. I tried to push the seat back, but it had maxed out. I figured maybe a coin or something hard was stuck in the railing, preventing the seat from going further back.

When I got home, I got out of my seat. Pushed the seat as far forward as possible, and started to inspect the railing from the back seat, while moving the seat back and forth.

It was true. The seat would stop about 3 inches short of the end of the railing. Something was blocking its movement, but I couldn't see it.

I got a screwdriver and started poking it into the end of the railing. To my amazement, I dislodged a perfectly machined piece of metal from the railing. The piece was about 3 inches long in the shape of a channel, which would fit snugly inside the railing, effectively stopping the hydraulic mechanism from pushing the chair any further back.

How did this piece end up there?

Could it be that my friendly neighborhood BMW dealership was trying to get even with me for not agreeing to the additional repairs?

Or maybe they place this piece in every car that goes there for repairs, but they forgot to take it out of mine when they were done.

I kept that piece of metal for future generations to see.

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Shahriar Zahedi



Book of the day

Three volume box set of the Persian Book of Kings
Translated by Dick Davis


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