Here’s the thing about Keanu. He almost never came into my life at all, if it hadn’t been for the lovelies at ZenAuto. And here’s where I have to say that my experience with ZenAuto is above and beyond any experience I’ve ever had in my life, which is why I will keep telling you guys about this company until I am blue in the face. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. You came here to read about how Keanu, the Mini Countryman (just so we’re clear I’m not actually talking about Mr. Reeves), saved my life. That should actually be plural, as over the past three months, this car has completely changed everything. I believe everything happens for a reason and this one I’m still wrapping my head around as I think it’s one of the biggest anxieties I’ve conquered to date. Let’s take a step back and let me explain myself a bit here.
In my last love letter about Keanu, I told you guys that in my 17 years of living in London, I never once slid behind the wheel of a car in this country, where oddly we all drive on the other side of the road. There are also funny road signs, the speed limit signs are so miniature you can barely see them and you are warned every time you are potentially about to be caught speeding anyway, so you can slow down… how very polite! It all seemed so foreign to me. But I made a decision to potentially move out to the country, so was faced with having to get my license here. Seems silly since I’ve been driving since I was 15 in the USA, but in a way I’m glad I had to go through an entire reeducation.
Fast forward six months. I’ve passed all the required tests. I’ve gone through the entire process, with ZenAuto, in selecting the perfect city car that would also be my first UK car, and I have a complete breakdown the week before it’s scheduled to arrive. When I say breakdown, I mean I actually asked about the chances of cancelling the delivery of the car. I was having full blown panic attacks about the responsibility of owning a car, what I would do if something happened in the middle of nowhere while driving it (even though I’ve lived here most of my life now, I still consider this a foreign country). I mean I basically had so many questions in my head that I’d worked myself into a complete mental breakdown.
Can you guess what happened next? I got a phone call, from one of the team at Zen Auto. We spent an hour on the phone together (actually could have been more) and I asked every single question I could think of. Every single question felt ridiculous coming out of my mouth and the brilliant man on the other side of the phone made me feel as if everything I was asking was completely normal. By the time I hung up, I was convinced I could not only do this, but that Supermen (Zen) had my back. I even asked about where I would park the car and had an email twenty minutes after hanging up with the details of my local council, where I had to go to register the car for parking and what I’d need to bring with me to do it. I’m telling you right now, I’ve never experienced customer service like this before.
So the day comes when the car is delivered. Try not to laugh when I tell you this. I went out three days in a row and just sat in the driver’s seat. I never left the road. I just sat there. I’d occasionally start the car. But was feeling terrified again. I got an email at the end of the week, from ZenAuto, asking how I was getting on. I had to write back and admit I hadn’t as much as left my street. I think I made something up about being too busy. Then, one Saturday morning I woke up and decided I just had to conquer the fear. So, I stepped into the car, turned on the ignition, fired up my navigation system and set the destination for Greenwich. I was making myself drive through Central London, so I could go and visit the boyfriend. I was making myself tackle the fear and I was going big. I mean we’re talking Hyde Park Corner Roundabout big (for those of you that don’t know London….this particular roundabout is terrifying). I must have winced a thousand times before I reached Hyde Park. I couldn’t have any music playing and every time the navigation system gave a direction, I jumped a little bit. Good lord, you must think I’m the biggest wuss in the world reading that. Please rest assured, I am not. I just have an incredible knack for building things up in my mind. And I have to do something big to settle the fear, each and every time.
It wasn’t until I was sitting in front of Buckingham Palace, in traffic, that my shoulders started to relax. My grip on the steering wheel was no longer showcasing white knuckles and the sweat on my brow began to cease and desist. Maybe I could do this and the whole world wouldn’t come to a screeching halt. So, at this point you’re probably saying, why has Keanu saved your life exactly? Hold the phone, caller. I’m getting there.
So here are the ways in which Keanu has saved my life. We will start with the everyday lifesavers, the things that have become massive that I didn’t even really think about, and build up to the big moments:
1. I can now buy groceries without the fear of losing circulation in my arms. Yes, I used to have to walk about a mile with about fifty pounds of groceries, in bags that were digging into the flesh on my arms and shoulders. It wasn’t a good look, but we’re Londoners. We’re used to this stuff. Turns out, you don’t have to be. I actually go for the big trolley now in Tesco. I have a whole trunk waiting to be filled and I go for it (much to the dismay of my personal trainers I’m sure…. probably shouldn’t be bulk buying chocolate just because I have a large car now).
2. It feels like someone has given me the keys to the kingdom. In fact they have, the United Kingdom. I have been going everywhere, every chance I can get. If I have a free day, I drive somewhere I’ve never been before. It can be a pub in the middle of nowhere that has an insane reputation for a Sunday roast. There have even been a few days by the seaside. These were all places that would have required serious planning to visit if I wanted to take a train. But now, we just wake up on the weekend, look outside and decide, depending on the weather, where we want to go. It may sound ridiculous, but it has been the most liberating experience and I feel like a real adventurer in this beautiful country for the first time. And I love that I feel confident in driving absolutely anywhere because ZenAuto are always on call should I need anything at all. That’s a big deal, people.
3. Keanu and ZenAuto gave us the gift of goodbye. I don’t think “the other man” in my life will mind me writing this, as if it weren’t for Keanu, this last month would have looked a lot different. Sadly, my boyfriend’s mum fell very ill last month. Her rapid decline was very unexpected and neither of us were prepared for what would happen over the course of three days. In the middle of the night we got a call saying she had gone into hospital. We were up at the crack of dawn and made our way out to the country to see her. Over the next couple of days, we would make the trip a number of times. Finally, we got a call saying it was time to say goodbye. We had no idea how long she had, but I drove like a bat out of hell to get him there so that he could say goodbye. The next day I wrote to Zen and told them what happened. I was terrified that I might have received a speeding ticket as a result of my need to get my partner there before it was too late. The response I had from the team was heartfelt, genuine and reassuring. They were more concerned about us and our own emotional state than that of a speeding ticket. The compassion was overwhelming. I wrote back to them warning them that I would be driving up to Yorkshire to deliver hugs in person. Keanu saved our lives that night because he delivered us to someone we both loved and gave us the opportunity to give one final hug, one last goodbye. A car gave us that. Not having to wait for a train or a taxi gave us that. Me conquering a silly fear about owning and driving a car gave us that. And for THAT I will forever be thankful.
It may sound ridiculous, and I’m sure there will be a few people reading this that will be rolling their eyes, but I felt the need to write this for anyone that’s on the edge, wandering whether or not owning a car in London is worth it. My God, is it ever. If I could push you over into leasing, I would right now. It has completely changed my world and it’s only been three months. And so much of that was down to trusting the team at ZenAuto when they talked me through what would work in the city and for me. Can you believe I went in thinking I wanted to lease a giant Range Rover? Thank goodness for sensible specialists.
So there you go, the latest love letter and portrait series with Keanu.
If you want to go back and read part one: Introducing Keanu…my first car in London, the good, the bad and the unexpected.
Full disclosure (in case there are any lingering doubts): I am working in collaboration with ZenAuto on this post and all future posts about my beautiful Keanu.