The dumping of a friend

2009-02-23 00:00

We suffered a sad family loss last month and after 16 years of faithful, unstinting service, we have coldly, cynically abandoned our Toyota Venture.

Cars have never been a priority in a family of drivers who could not tell a big end from a little one. But this car inspired loyalty. Subjected to the blood, sweat, vomit, laughter and tears of our family life, she never failed us although, on occasions, her tyres let her down.

Her worst moments came when she was twice ravaged in The Witness parking lot, an unwilling donor, her distributor (whatever that may be) was untimely ripped and transplanted into some stranger.

She was also the object of naked aggression on a trip to the Kruger National Park and I quote from the insurance claim:

“Was proceeding on the way to Phalaborwa outside the Kruger National Park. Passed several cars parked haphazardly along the road. Family member in front passenger seat barked: ‘Turn round, it’s a hijacking.’ Passenger in right-rear seat said: ‘Go faster, it’s a hold-up.’

“Confused by contradictory instructions, drew to an uncertain halt. Failed to notice threat was closer, an enraged buffalo hiding behind large bush.

“Passenger in left-rear passenger seat exclaimed: ‘Look out, there is a buffalo.’ Saw same. Attempted evasive action. Too late. Buffalo struck left-rear passenger door (see diagram attached).

“Thirteen-year-old passenger in left-rear passenger seat said: ‘Bloody hell!’ Passenger in front- left seat responded automatically: ‘Language, language.’

“Drove off rapidly. Buffalo, honour satisfied, returned to bush. Proceeded to Phalaborwa with badly damaged rear door and rear fender (see enclosed quotation for R10 000).”

Our vehicle was also forced to witness major family embarrassments.

Early one morning, after a late night, I was woken from a brief sleep by an irritated wife who had to make a dawn start to my day off. We (the car, that is) had a flat. Dressed in only a T-shirt, and, in Kristofferson’s words, with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt, I staggered out to greet the dawn and immediately went through my entire repertoire of mechanical tricks. This involved the jack, a wheel spanner and no foresight. The nuts came off, and I was impressed, but the wheel was stuck.

And so it came to pass that I was found by my wife, spreadeagled under the car, naked skin to cold slasto, bashing away at the wheel with a brick. I have it on the best authority that it was not a pretty sight, but what I still find surprising, and for this I’m eternally grateful, is that the professional photographer in our family did not record this chilling sight for posterity.

A spade finally succeeded where the brick had failed and then came the sombre words from someone who had seen it all before and was resigned to some form of disaster. Shouldn’t you first check the spare. It was too late, anyway, and I pressed on. Only once I had the Venture back on terra firma was it confirmed — I should have first checked the spare.

Two flats and raucous laughter had replaced giggles.

No problem, I said, putting on a brave face under my throbbing head. I’ll just take the bike (a Honda putt-putt) and get the damn spare pumped. Quickly I set off, wobbling badly, for the nearby garage, the wheel balanced precariously and wedged under my chin with my fingers.

I almost made it back. Re-turning unsteadily down the bumpy dirt road to our driveway, I struck a pothole, my white-knuckled fingers were dislodged and the wheel, shaken loose, proceeded to take on a life of its own, bouncing, rather impressively really, down the road before disappearing into the overgrown greenbelt and coming to rest in the Dorpspruit River. The next day I joined the AA (the one that does cars not people).

To whoever now owns the blue Toyota Venture, treat her with care — she deserves it. She was disposed of in less than an hour of a phone call and with no quibbling about the price.

There was no sense of relief or achievement dropping her at the car lot. I felt like someone who has dumped a loyal, trusting family pet at the side of the road and then just walked away.

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