A girl’s best friend

It is a popular misconception that a single girl’s best friend comes in various textures and colours, is on average between six and nine inches in length, has a variable speed button and works with a couple of D-cell batteries.

The truth is that a single girl’s best friend comes in a yellow bakkie or truck, is called Kenneth or Richard or Webster and works for the Automobile Association. Although the only similarity between the trusty mechanics of the AA and Danny the Dolphin is the variable speed facility, the relief a sighting brings on a difficult day is comparable, at least.

I have spent quite a bit of intimate time in the cabins of the above-mentioned trucks in the last few weeks. My car decided, mysteriously, shortly after it had the very last service apparently required by the service record book (oh yes, full service history up to 215 000kms) it was time to stop behaving like a head prefect and scare the hell out of me instead.

It is debilitating not to be able to get around with confidence and relative speed, and depressing to realise that just as one’s own fortunes appear to be recovering right alongside the battered world economy, it may be time to get another car. (Er, perhaps not unlike the battered world economy.)

In the meantime, challenged mobility is not necessarily a curse. I have been reflecting in recent times on the average size of a personal universe: and wondering what constitutes it and determines its size. (Size IS important, in everything. And with a single exception, bigger is always better.) I think there are two main elements: the people we know and the things we read. Being stuck next to the peristaltic worm of peak-hour traffic on the M1 South just two km’s from my creative writing class provided an excellent opportunity to expand my universe.

At one stage there were six cars with pulsing emergency indicators parked in a hundred metre stretch. The situation appeared to be particularly irritating for the drivers of those mysterious and shiny VIP sedans whose discreetly-flashing, dash-mounted blue lights apparently free them from obeying traffic laws as they zip past on the emergency shoulder of the road. It was quite entertaining.

Riyad’s Toyota was overheating, the guys from Kwa Kwa had cam belt problems (initially – when one of their gang came back after an hour with a new cam belt their problem change into a shifting spanner one) and two girls jerked a Getz to a halt very narrowly in front of me. The driver said that she thought it was the “clush”, but she was not sure why. Right in front, a little stand-offishly perhaps, was a shiny Beemer. But its owner did not engage with us. Car trouble is the great equaliser, I thought, whether you get out of the vehicle to face the smell of burning tyres or whether you choose to remain in the leather interior and run the battery flat with the aircon.

Anyway. I was very Zen about the whole thing initially, but the AA’s variable speed button must have been on slow, because the Kwa Kwa contingent had managed to dis- and re-assemble my entire fuel supply system before the familiar yellow lights pulled up. I was very happy to see Webster, indeed.

And now I have to figure out how to get to work without a car – I must investigate our bus service, as it does, after all, run from around the corner to Braamfontein. And that will be a whole universe-expanding, not to say empowering, exercise on its own. It may not be useful for getting around at night – but then I can always just stay in and… read.

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