Friday, 15 August 2014

Sprinkled with Paranoia

I have been struggling a little bit with my car that past few weeks.  And while sometimes you wish car repairs are one of those things you could post-pone doing, they sort of have a way of ensuring they become urgent. 
It’s annoying really.  The damn thing just stops. 

So mine was on the verge of doing just that when I took it in for repairs.  The way I saw it was that either I put holes in the bottom and we could propel it Flintstone style, or I needed to find some mechanical assistance.  And after weighing my options, the pro’s and cons, i.e. no gym membership needed, less petrol costs, etc., I decided that mechanical assistance is probably best.       
Having taken in my car previously for a disk replacement, I took it to the same place, not sure if they do clutch replacement or not.  I drive in and roll down my window to ask. 

One of the sales people comes to my car and asks if he can help and in response to my query replies,
“No, we normally do not do clutch replacement, but ‘don’t worry, we can make a plan”.  (I can see that the motivation to ‘make a plan’ is clearly a result of this man liking what he sees.  God bless those who make hair dye, make-up, spanx and booster bras.  Heaven knows what I am going to do when my blessed age of 29 gradually creeps up).    

The statement ‘don’t worry’ is really an indication that there are things you should be worrying about but are being asked to make the deliberate choice not too.  And that alone, is usually reason enough to worry! 
The ‘making of a plan’ is infamous for just that.  It is as it sounds.  People organise, and make a plan.  And the plan is, aside from the paper with pictures of dead presidents, a paperless transaction.  

Experience has taught me that with car repairs, it really does not matter how business gets done, because someone is about to be screwed. It was my hope and prayer that it wasn’t going to be me this time.          
Not faced with an infinite amount of options (my car will not go far), I submit to ‘the plan’.   

A few hours later, after some price negotiation, which is now about 60% of the original quotation, they need cash to “purchase the parts”. 
Internal alarm bells sound.  ‘Oh, hell no.  My car and cash?  Sounds like a rat.’     

A request, to which I asked if they could not purchase the parts and I reimburse them? 
Besides, how far am I going to go if they have my car, out of the two of us, they were sitting with the balance of power.  An agreement to which they originally agreed and then reneged and I needed to come up with at least half, an amount to which they undertook to finance the balance.

I walk back to the workshop, cash in hand revisiting the process in my head and examining myself for errors of judgement and checking my internal stupidity barometer...  It is now 4pm and the car, is now laying in about four hundred pieces; a sight at which my stomach turned and an obvious indication that it is much too late to change my mind.  
Not having transport, the ‘garage’ arranges for a car for me.                

My ‘courtesy car’ is the first guy’s personal car, a 2004, royal blue Corsa lite.  Not a luxury car by any stretch of the imagination, but hey, a car is a car and they are sitting with my car, in 400 pieces, no paperwork and cash.  I need to have my head examined.  At least my having a car (albeit a poor trade off), is a small consolation that they are somewhat serious about fixing my car, so I tell myself.       
So I climb in and prepare to depart.  The car’s gear shift where the gear indicators had been rubbed off with time and so the first exercise was to establish exactly where reverse was.  Incidentally the car also brought to my attention that power steering is a luxury. 

After some effort I manage and pull myself into traffic.  I am acutely aware that I am putting on the windshield wipers instead of the signal lights when suddenly I am jerked backwards.  I am now driving from the back seat instead of the front; a position from which I am no longer able to reach the pedals thanks to the sudden collapse of the seatback.  In a state of heighten alertness (code for full on panic), I pull desperately on the steering wheel shifting myself forward enough to access the foot petals and slam on the brakes before the rapidly approaching red light.  My heart pounding, I manage to stop the car and attempt to get the seat back to return to its upright position. 
A whole lot of drama for a simple half a block of progress.      

Yes, I am missing my car even more now.  And an FYI, seatbelts are entirely useless when there is no seat back.        
All in all, I manage to arrive home safely with only two additional terrifying visits to the back seat; holding on desperately to hope established on the promise that the car would be fixed yet this evening.  

When it’s ready “we will call you”, they had promised.
But by six pm, I still had no telephone call and now I am beginning to wonder if I had not inadvertently purchased the petrol to take my car to Mozambique for a permanent holiday on the coast – which wouldn’t be so bad if I were in it...  assuming of course that ‘in it’ would imply at minimum, sitting comfortably in the driver’s seat and not tucked in the boot (trunk). 

Once again, I find myself revisiting my decision making processes for errors of judgement and decide that perhaps I need to drive back to the garage and check whether my car is still there (I mean – because after all I will be able to something about it if it isn’t-haha). 
So I climb back into my courtesy chariot and aside from the automated front to back seat transfer mechanism, I also do not have headlights that actually work and it is already dark outside.  I drive back to the garage... periodically flashed by oncoming traffic – the polite way of saying, “turn on your lights you moron” -  with only one trip to the back seat this time. 

I arrive at the garage to find that the building has been locked up.  The side gate is still open and one ‘back business’ is still busy, but not the one where my car is located.  The good news: my car is still there, albeit with no front tires.  It does however look as though it is in a few less pieces than my last visit, but it does not look like it has any intention of being returned to me yet this evening; a sight which causes some irritation.        
On my way again, I call and enquire whether my car will still be fixed yet today.  I will check and phone you back, he tells me. 

The phone remains silent. 
I still have no evidence that my car is there or had been there in the event that someone drives it away.  

‘I should have taken a picture’! I think to myself more irritated.        
I go back, this time with a friend, angry with myself for not thinking of taking a picture the first time around. 

It’s been about 30 minutes since I left.  It’s now closed.  Locked up tight.  I estimate the time gap and assume that my car must still be there. We travel around to the back and peak over the boundary fence. 
Yes it has reached the full height of madness , a security guard is walking over to check ‘what in hell we are doing’.  We ignore him.     

The car is there.  Its bonnet open and front tires still off; a sight which this time causes relief.       
I take a picture between the barbed wire attached to the top of the boundary fence as ‘evidence’ if needed, that my car really ‘was there’.  Just in case. 

That night, I put myself to bed and sink into an uneasy sleep. 
The next morning I wake up and arrive at the garage as soon as I am able, the complimentary Corsa keeping me in the front seat the whole way this time.        

And there she was.  My car.  All fixed up, in one piece and ready to go; running like new.    
I breathed a sigh of relief, said a prayer of thanks and paid the balance. 

For a change, it’s a happy ending, but I am well aware that it could have been otherwise. 
I cannot help but wonder if more happy endings such as this one would soon start to change our expectations and perceptions.  It may even significantly contribute towards a reduction in paranoia. 

But that, I suppose, is entirely up to us.


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Garden Spooks and Change

Although I live in Africa and it is supposed to be warmwell that is the international stereotype of ‘Africa’ in any case, I need to put frost guard on my garden every year if I want to preserve my plants for the next growing season because at night we can get some serious frost. 
And so I pull out big white sheets of frost guard and cover the areas of the garden that have plants which cannot tolerate the cold.  And every year without fail, the dog, a little black schnauzer, reacts with a ferocious irritation at the changes to his garden. 

For the first week he attacks the covers and pulls them off.  He regularly gets himself tangled in his efforts to fight the new additions to the garden because they cover areas of ground he is accustomed to patrolling and he is unwilling to change his behaviour.  And then my frost guard gets a life of its own, while he jumps and scratches at it in an effort to find his way back out.  And if it wasn’t for the 9 meters of white frost guard trailing behind this little ghost of a dog, one would almost have to look twice at this garden spook.
And every evening I am forced to go out and put the frost guard back much to my own irritation.

Thus it would seem the nature of change requires chaos. 
A change in direction requires force and energy.

A change in thinking requires a paradigm shift.
A deliberate life change requires energy and intent.

Whatever the case, from somewhere, somehow, change requires different input(s).  
Sometimes change is easier when the inputs are from external sources and change is reactionary not deliberate.  It saves ourselves from the necessity of considering options and creating a shift for which by virtue of consequence, we will be held accountable for and, by virtue of the numerous variables in life, we may get the wrong outcome and regret in hindsight - in which case one could always seek to attempt to change it again.       

But deliberate change requires choice.  It is a calculated decision to destabilise our environment and create chaos with the intention of creating new outcomes; a plan to change one’s way of thinking and make a new behaviour choice; an internal input of something new into an old situation.  
And yet the first reaction to change seems to be fear.  A worry about what is not known.  An attachment (sometimes illogical and unexplainable) to what we know even if what we know is not working well for us. 

What I don’t seem to be willing to understand is the unwillingness of humanity to honestly ask whether one is satisfied with the status quo at present?
And if the answer is ‘no’, why not change it? 

Perhaps the change you fear is little more than a garden spook.