x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

When plastic's not fantastic

It's a common thread of conversation here in the UAE: why, why do so many people cover the seats of their new cars in see-through plastic wrap?

Uncover the plastic and enjoy your car.
Uncover the plastic and enjoy your car.

Years ago - many, many years ago - I was visiting the grandmother of a good friend of mine. Well, OK, she was actually babysitting us; that's how long ago it was. Her home was an old bungalow that had not changed its decor since the 1950s; it had that old, musty smell that you expect to find in old people's houses. But she made up for it with fresh muffins and sweets, so I was fine with that.

At one point, my friend and I decided to sneak into the one room that we weren't allowed to play in - the sitting room. Because, let's be honest, being barred from somewhere only means you try harder to get in, especially when you're eight years old. (Often, when you're 38, as well.) There was not a speck of dust in the room, as if it was cleaned daily. Even to my young eyes, the furniture was antiquated, but immaculate. Knick-knacks littered the tables and shelves, and a thick, cream-coloured shag-pile carpet covered the floor. I decided to tempt fate and sit on the couch, and I realised then why I never saw anyone actually sitting in the sitting room.

The taut plastic covers on the furniture, left on right from the store to keep the furniture in its "just-bought" state, were unyielding and made an awful squeaking noise as I slid across them. It being summer and me in a pair of shorts, my bare legs stuck uncomfortably to the surface, and as I peeled them off I could already feel the perspiration underneath my knees. "Who would even want to sit here?" I thought.

I think that you know where I'm going with this. It's a common thread of conversation here in the UAE: why, why do so many people cover the seats of their new cars in see-through plastic wrap? It's everywhere, and almost always it's in new, expensive vehicles: Range Rovers, BMWs, Porsches ... All are brands that pride themselves on top-quality interior materials to meet the discerning tastes of their owners, only to have them unceremoniously covered in stuff better suited to wrapping up your lunch.

I could understand if your seat is ripped up and you want a quick fix; believe me, been there, done that. But that's usually in a 12-year-old Civic, and even then, plastic is not the choice. There are too many Looney Tunes, wooden bead or fake sheepskin seat covers to settle on uncomfortable, see-through plastic. Yes, it protects the interior. Of course, it helps with the resale value if your seats are "like new". But is that really worth it? Because what you're saying is that I'd rather not enjoy my new car now so that the next buyer can enjoy it fully.

Take the plastic off. Enjoy your car. Find out what the leather really feels like. Smell it, even. Driving is a visceral, emotional and, yes, sensual experience. Don't deprive yourself. nvorano@thenational.ae