Colleen Figg

A helping hand is not enough

2008-06-06 11:56

Colleen Figg

On Wednesday we stopped to help some old folk who were stuck in an equally ancient automatic Mercedes Benz. The old man caught my eye because he was trying to push the car while being harangued by what appeared to be a ball-breaking kind of wife in the driver's seat.

She kept sticking her head out the window shouting imprecations and instructions at the fellow, who strained, pop-eyed, to move the car an inch let alone a couple of yards. I don't know if you have ever tried to push-start a heavy car like a Merc (I can manage VW Golf on my own, barely) but it's similar to trying to budge a recalcitrant donkey.

What made it worse was that this man reminded me of Salieri in that film Amadeus; if you remember him towards the end of his life, he was a grey-faced, pock-marked, monstrous-looking individual with a filthy bandage tied around his throat.

This fellow was his exact likeness, down to the bandage. It gave me quite a turn when he lurched towards the car; hacking and coughing half his lungs up with the strain of trying to get his car (or himself) going.

He stuck his head halfway in through the window which resulted in the husband leaping out with alacrity, nearly smashing "Salieri" on the bridge of the nose with the car door while the wife screeched "Wat gaan nou aan?" (What's going on now?) from her perch behind the steering wheel.

Confusion resulted between the two men about the English word tow, and the Afrikaans word "tou" (rope) as my husband asked "can we tow you", and the old man thought he said "I have got a 'tou'". Anyway a rope was eventually produced from the depths of the other car and we hitched them up.

Demanding money

I was worried about how Mrs Salieri would manage the towing aspect of things and in fact she took a while to disengage the handbrake, to the extent that the hard-won rope nearly snapped. After that luckily, it was just a matter of towing them along for about 50m, and turning down a road.

Once we stopped the car, the vampiric fellow materialised at our window again without seeming to have alighted from his vehicle, and actually, to our amazement, went on to demand money. He droned on at some length about expensive car parts and other fiscal issues until I interjected myself into the conversation, saying we really had to be going.

I don't know if he had been unaware of my existence up until this point, or whether my firm tone brooked no argument, but he disappeared without further ado. As we drove away my spouse and I shook our heads at one another in disbelief that the bloke had tried to squeeze us for money on top of efforts already made on his behalf!

"There's nowt as queer as folk", we said, and drove away home.

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