Bring on the Gautrain! (but have it stop in every suburb in Joburg)

There is one major drawback of owning one car — you only have one car. This is, of course, also the major strength of owning one car.

This week, it’s proving to be a weakness.

While driving home via the N1 highway on Tuesday afternoon, the engine stopped working. I don’t really have the full details since Angie was driving. She really should be the one sharing this story, but we all know that is unlikely to happen. I’ll do my best.

The car cut out in the middle lane, and Angie came to a stop. Soon afterwards, I received a frantic phone-call from her, pleading with me to please help her. The car has stopped dead! People are hooting! I can’t get out of the car! Help me!
I wasn’t really sure what I was meant to do, considering that a) I was far from the scene, b) I had no way of easily reaching the scene, c) Even if I could get there quickly, I still wouldn’t be able to do anything.
I should’ve told her to phone the insurance people, but I faltered. Under pressure, I couldn’t really think of what to tell her to do. In the end I told her to phone 112 — the cellphone emergency number.
The problem was further exacerbated by the fact that I couldn’t keep Angie on the phone and try to calm her down because her cellphone battery was almost kaput. This left us with SMS communication. Clumsy and difficult. And confusing at times.

On the bright side, Angie had 15 seconds of fame as she made the 5FM traffic news (and probably other radio stations’ news too) for causing an obstruction on the N1, and slowing traffic.

Ultimately, a tow-truck arrived to transport Angie and the car home. The confusion of the SMSs played a part here. From our texted communication, I thought that the tow-truck had picked up the car and left Angie on the side of the road. Panicked, I phoned Quinn to ask him to give me a lift to fetch Angie (who I believed, was flapping at the side of the road — using words like “desperate” can give that impression).
By the time Quinn arrived, Angie texted me to say that the tow-truck had arrived and would be bringing her home soon.
Why I thought it had already made an appearance isn’t entirely clear to me now.

The truck brought the car home, to my slight dismay. Because we’d need to tow it somewhere else the next day — at additional expense. At which point Quinn brought to my attention that the insurance people should do it. At which point I felt foolish for having paid R500.00 to get it towed home.

The fun of the night was not yet complete.

By this point, it was about 18h30. Angie and I had intended to have pizza that night, and we were not intending on changing our plans. Kindly, Quinn dropped us off at the pizza place in our suburb. We ate the pizza, cursed our dismal luck with automobiles, and drank wine.
Then we walked home. At night. In Johannesburg. That’s right kids. It’s not really that scary. The pizza place is only about 1.5 kilometres from home.
Except…
As we got to the last corner before turning into our town-house complex, we encountered many agitated people on the road outside a house. And then one of the ADT security vehicles came flying by. We overheard the word “hijack.” The people looked at us as if we were strange circus beasts, or a rare species of bird — a breeding pair of the lesser-known white-skinned nocturnal pedestrian.

The fun of the night concluded there, but the fun of the car continues! Read on!

The truck was towed on Wednesday morning to a service station, where I was cheerfully informed that the cam-belt had snapped, bending all valves.
People with cars dread this happening. Fixing it involves replacing a bunch of stuff, and taking engines apart and so on. It apparently costs a lot because it takes a while to get everything done. I don’t really know for sure because I’m more of a geek than a mechanic. Which is why I get ripped-off by mechanics and not by PC sales-people. In hindsight, given the relative expense of purchasing and maintaining PCs versus motorcars, I should’ve taken more interest in mechanical operating systems, than in computer operating systems. At least from a financial perspective.
Further adding to my grief is the fact that the service station couldn’t source one of the spare parts before the end of today. It’s now the Easter weekend, which means I have no car until Tuesday.
We booked two nights at Goblin’s cove over the weekend.
Fortunately, Angie can abuse her position at her NGO and borrow the organisation’s car for the weekend. So, at least we are vaguely mobile once again.

These, and other unmentioned things, led me to return to get my hit of Buddhism on Wednesday. Something I’d been missing lately. One needs to attend classes regularly otherwise one forgets to keep doing those useful things that keeps one calm.

I’m keeping calm again, which is much better than the grumpiness I had been returning to.

Enough waffle — for now.

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1 thought on “Bring on the Gautrain! (but have it stop in every suburb in Joburg)”

  1. Argh! What a pain – this is what happened to out little fiat when we first bought it last year… very luckily for us, our engine is apparently a “safe” engine and the pistons and the valves are designed never to meet…even when those all so important belts break.

    Good luck – hopefully the costs are not too insane!

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