Friday, 26 October 2012

Mysteries of the Universe IV

When I was a child, if someone bought a new car, they
had to run it in for months and months. This involved driving very slowly and taking the car to the garage frequently and other tedious things. Journeys that normally took hours took days when you were in a car that was running in. It might even have been quicker to walk.

I used to suspect that the whole 'running in' process was some kind of attempt by someone somewhere to make people take extra good care of their new possessions, to appreciate how lucky they were to have them and generally to spoil their fun. When I was little the air seemed to be filled with a general feeling that spoiling other people's fun was what life was really all about.

But times have changed and now you don't seem to have to run in cars at all, which makes me feel slightly transgressive, whenever I have the chance to roar about at high speed in a brand new vehicle - which isn't often.

The disappearance of 'running in' seems to me to be a piece of genuine progress. Furthermore, if running in was a real thing and not just a bit of spoilsportery, it must have been quite difficult to eliminate whatever the little details were that running in was necessary for. Ingenuity must have been involved somewhere along the line.

Which brings me to today's mystery - new towels. Having solved the complex problems of running in cars, how come no-one has managed to solve the problems of running in new towels? Can it really be more difficult to make a towel that can be successfully used as soon as you get it home than to make a car that doesn't need running in? And yet, each time we buy a new towel, we are still expected to put up with its awful, sticky, sort of non-absorbent, fluffy-but-rather- slimy-and-unpleasant, unrun-in texture for weeks on end.

In our house, as a result, we avoid the whole process. We prefer to use towels so ancient they are barely more than rags - one even bears the laundrytag from the house I was assigned to at a boarding school from which I liberated myself in 1970, which makes it at least 42 years old.

Is there anyone enterprising out there, looking for a terrific opportunity? Who will take up my new, exciting - if not exactly high-tech, cutting edge or glamorous (oh all right, not very exciting - but possibly lucrative) - suggestion and start supplying the world with ready-distressed towels? We - at least those of us in this house - are crying out for such a service. We have cash, we are keen, our dollars are ready in our hands.

(For earlier mysteries see here and here and here)


  1. I bought some ecodownunder ones that didn't seem to need much running in. #notaspamcomment

    1. I think I shall set up an antique shop stocked purely with ancient towels

  2. The point of running in cars was to let the metal filings worth their way out of the engine, or so I understood. Now the manufacturing may have been improved so that one no longer needs to do so.

    1. I understood that whatever running in is required is now done while the motor is on the factory floor, before bolting into the vehicle. Whether this is a "true fact" or not is another matter.

      All I know is that the 50 mph [80kph] top speed was religiously observed by most drivers of new cars. Often a sign was attached to the back of the car that said RUNNING IN, so that frustrated drivers in a long line behind wouldn't do their lollies.

      Children were often puzzled by the sign. It seemed it contained not enough information, or maybe too much.

    2. What were metal filings doing in the engine in the first place? Some giant with iron fingernails decided to do a bit of manicuring over the chassis?

    3. Just the tiny bits that get left in the machining process. You know when you sharpen a knife? In the old days a few particles still remained, even in powder form, which were not good for the insides of new pistons, but did less damage at lower speeds. Sandpaper effect.