That gut wrenching moment when you are in the supermarket, and an announcement is made that there is a car on fire outside in the parking lot. All motorists drop shopping baskets and gush out. The relief of finding that its not your car mingles with pity and empathy for the shocked owner of the vehicle thats burning. Some motorists quickly move their vehicles away from the ticking time bomb. You stand there transfixed, at the same time in awe of selfless human beings that risk limb and life itself, trying to put out a fire that threatens to engulf the vehicle of a total stranger. Subconsciously, you find yourself harking back at the time when government made it compulsory for all motorists to carry fire extinguishers in their vehicles, and most of us cursed like hell. To think that that one small fire extinguisher may actually not be enough when it comes to it…
Yesterday I witnessed the staff at Montagu Spar in Harare battle to put out fire from a vehicle parked in their lot. They brought out all the supermarket’s fire extinguishers. They did all they could to help the distraught motorist who momentarily could only just stare and breathe. Although he possibly only managed to salvage the body, because the entire engine got fried indefinitely, worse things could have happened, had people chosen to stand aside and look. It was extremely dangerous, and there was no way of measuring the level of risk these men took being so close to the bonnet, the source of the fire, which was progressively making its way to the petrol tank.
May this spirit of ubuntu persevere. It may well be the only thing that will take us through.
We women have one small ‘weakness’ of developing serious emotional and sentimental attachments to inanimate things. It is what makes us the ‘special sex’. This was said to me by one grime and grease covered chap who had a permanently wide grin and called himself an artisan. Weaker sex you mean, I remember thinking at that point and deciding then and there that sarcasm is the lowest form of wit. I had stopped at a garage in Newlands because my eternally faithful car had suddenly developed problems as I was driving in the rain for an important appointment. The wipers just suddenly stopped working. The temperature had gone above three quarters but the fan wasn’t kicking in. Worried the head would fry; I stopped at the nearest service station to have a look. The radiator cap for some reason had become loose and hot water was seeping out from under it. I think I must have been in shock because the other young handsome mechanic offered me a chair and asked me to sit a short distance away. They put my car on the pit, opened her up and started checking and doing all sorts of tests. It’s when the revs started that I began to get agitated. I probably even cried a little, to which the head mechanic found it necessary to share his witty words in the introduction above. I will admit it here and now, I LOVE MY CAR. And I will take criticism for it any day. Its not the prettiest nor the youngest there is, but I still care about it and have a real connection to it, not only because it was my first and I know what it took for me to buy it, but it has also been extremely faithful to me these two years – there is not a day it has failed to start on the first kick. Each time when I have driven around, I have always remarked how all the modern posh cars seem to be the ones whose lights just die, or are the ones you find breaking down or giving in to the potholes. My car is hardy. Outside general service, I have not had a single problem with that car – except of course when I fried the clutch plate in my early days as a new driver. I am made to understand that everybody who drives goes through that, but that’s another story.
Anyway, here I was, waiting for my car as they kept revving it and revving it, pushing it to its maximum limit ever. The droning sound was just gutting and I felt like pieces of my heart were being taken apart little by little. I think the head mechanic noticed my anxiety and explained that this was standard practice in vehicle service. Each time I have taken my car for service, I haven’t been there long enough to find out that that’s what they do.
The mechanics temporarily fixed the various problems to enable me to drive it home. They asked me to bring it in for full service the next day. After replacing the radiator cap with a new one, the head mechanic began to explain to me what else was wrong with the car. I heard myself arguing that this car hadn’t given me any problems till today. Surely it can’t have all those things wrong with it? The man looked at me quietly then said simply that this was an old car, and some things just suddenly stop working. Slowly it began to dawn on me that maybe, just maybe it was time to let it go.
It hurts me to think about it and every time I look at it, I feel so wretched at what I am planning to do. I don’t think it’s a question of developing sentimental attachments to it. It’s just that, I feel I owe it to her to keep it, because it hasn’t once let me down. It’s simply getting older, and tired; but deep down I know what needs to be done – although it’s working perfectly now. Probably I am a denialist, some people dont understand it, criticize us for it even. But I think we all develop certain bonds to inanimate things. How simple is it really to let go of that old sweater your grandmother made for you, or that set of earrings that once belonged to your friend who is now late? I remember my ex and his Mazda 323 while we were still dating. The man simply loved his car – even more than me I suspect. I remember jokingly naming that purple car of his Suzanna, because I too loved it in a bitter-sweet way although it aggressively competed with me for the guy’s attention. I think men and women alike develop attachments. The difference is probably, that some of us express hurt more.
Ruby in all her grace