It was with a gut-wrenching lurch in both my stomach and my car that my much-driven Peugot 206 staggered, leered, groaned and finally stopped with a choke as I tried to reverse out the parking lot. ‘Fuck, fuck, fuck,’ I moaned desperately as the clutch jiggled ineffectually in my hand. The Boyfriend asked, ‘What?’ perplexed, and I replied, ‘I don’t know, but this happened before and the car had to be towed.’ This was a problem. We were about 935km from family and friends at this point – driving cross country from my home of four years, Cape Town (463km away), to my soon-to-be new home, Johannesburg. That, if you don’t know the exact distance between all cities in South Africa (uneducated country rube) means we were in Beaufort-West – an unfortunate blip in the otherwise exemplary Western Cape. White guys aren’t very good at naming things, are they? ‘South Africa’ sounds as exciting as dental floss and ‘Western Cape’ does as much justice to province filled with vineyards, mountains, rolling mint green hills, and azure blue skies as the name Norma Jean did to Marilyn Monroe. Anyhow. My point is, we were stuck. Stuck, and fucked. Stucked?
(At this point I want to apologise for the atrocious language – I rarely swear – but when one is stuck in an immobile car hundreds of kilometers from all and everyone nasty words have a life of their own.)
Between hundreds of phone calls to anxious parents (even when you’re 26 parents worry, and worry, and worry) and the AA (cars not booze), we finally managed to get the vehicle towed by a man whose English was well-hidden by a thick accent, bristled hairs and leathered skin. Through his unintelligible stream of sounds we worked out that we were to hop into the truck while he pulled my poor, broken baby, packed sky high with all my earthly possessions (save for a small gaaitjie through which we could peer out with the rear view mirror) onto his monster truck and drive us to the mechanics. A mere two roads down, the mechanic got into my car, started the engine, and drove it into the garage. Drove it into the garage. Drove it into the garage.
The Boyfriend and I paused.
Looked at each other.
I cleared my throat.
HOW IS THE CAR WORKING AGAIN?!
The mechanics huffed, fiddled, opened bonnets, and eventually took it for a test drive with The Boyfriend. The car was fine. Better than fine. The car was as relaxed as if it had hopped off a cruise ship after a lengthy holiday in Greece, instead of spending the better part of a very hot day driving 500km up into the dry heartland of South Africa.
‘Do cars normally just “fix themselves”?’ asked The Boyfriend with a little testy and awkward laugh (his Man Ego was blushing bright red). ‘Nope,’ answered the mechanic dryly, the raised eyebrow in his voice if not on his face. The Boyfriend’s conclusion was “User Error” (nudging, poking, winking, teasing me) as we drove off to our sleep over spot three hours away.
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