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That Darned First Car

I set up a meeting with the vehicle finance agent.

I sauntered into his office with all manner of swagger. I whipped out my payslip and handed it over to him. He started furiously twanging away at his calculator. This was the time computers were only found in MDs offices and usually covered in that opaque plastic cover.

He kept twanging away and scribbling something on a little piece of paper. He repeated this several times. He got busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest.

In my dreams I had wanted to get a Mercedes.

In my mind I’d hoped to get a BMW but I wouldn’t have minded getting a VW.

He looked up. The initial smile had been replaced by a frown. My heart sank. Sweat beads dotted my forehead. The prognosis wasn’t good. By the time he mentioned his recommended price range I was at the door. I left in a whimper.

What was I going to tell my friends? What is the point of dreaming if they can’t help finance our dreams? Their tagline was ‘financing your dreams’. I wondered what was wrong with mine.

I didn’t sleep, couldn’t sleep. I avoided my friends for a whole week trying to figure out ways of how to get my Merc but nothing came up. You really can’t get far with a salary of P2,000.

At first I toyed with the idea of saving up first but I eventually abandoned that as it would have taken another five years. The itch to get a car transcended all reasonable thoughts. I had boasted I would be driving a sleek machine by the end of the month.

This was when Mogoditshane was more famous for night clubs and goats that are conversant with crossing the road at the traffic light. This was before Mogoditshane became the car capital of the world. Yes, the world! I mean think about it – where else do they have more car outlets than airtime vendors in the world.

After gathering enough courage I went back to the finance agent. If I’d walked in with a Mercedes swagger the first time this was reduced to a Daewoo tail-between-the-legs waddle. The agent smiled

me back in. He knew that reality had finally set in and he was about to earn his commission. He recommended a few second hand garages. Second hand! I wanted to kill him.

After some little shopping I decided on a reasonable car to fit my budget. It had a funny name I couldn’t pronounce and the salesman mentioned something called ‘voetstoets’ and tried to explain it. I was too overcome with sorrow to listen to or internalise the explanation.

My granny was proud of me. My friends were unimpressed. My girlfriend was embarrassed. But she was stuck with me and had to ride with me. I wanted to marry her at that moment.

After a week and when the initial shock had subsided my friends came for a spin.

We drove out of town on wide tarmac and the little engine struggled as I tried to show off its power. No matter how cheap or feeble your wheels are, when you show it off to your friends you somehow get enveloped in a wave of haughtiness and pretend it is something to enthuse about. What a mistake! All the passengers I had knew everything there was to know and my little show ended horribly.

Now sweating like a whore in a church I quickly abandoned the show. I swallowed hard as first two corollas and then an Uno zipped past as I tried to floor the wretched thing. The engine spluttered and coughed and packed up. I said ‘God let me die’ but he ignored my prayers.

We lined up by the roadside to flag down passing motorists but by the time we got home our friendship was under serious strain.

I had more problems than a Math book. I was stuck with a hefty loan repayment and a car that needed fixing. Usually buying a car comes with excitement, fanfare and upping one’s stock. Mine had not read the script.

A visit to the garage yielded nothing as the salesman curtly said ‘voetstoets’. Voetstoets became a word whose meaning I now grudgingly and reluctantly added to my vocabulary. I knew then it was Endsville.

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