Pardon my Hummer

Our 18-year-old daughter’s Facebook status a week or so ago was one word: “Melted”.

 It was perfectly understandable considering she had just dragged herself back, on foot, from varsity lectures in 44deg heat. Stellenbosch is not for sissies in the summertime when the mosquitoes are biting and the temperatures are high.

We could not bear the thought of her plodding through the heat so we had a little family meeting and made a plan. In a mad gesture of generosity we dropped off her sister’s unused, almost-new bicycle, complete with safety chain.

I hope it helps. She may even catch a cooling breeze in the tailwind of a fellow student’s Hummer as it rushes by. I kid you not. This girl has landed in Stellies from Gauteng with this monster vehicle as her mode of transport. It’s the talk of the little town and none of it very kind.

Now, apart from it being an ugly kind of beast best suited for US Marines thundering through Iraq, it’s a bit of a silly thing to be maneuvering along the oak-lined streets of a varsity village. Granted, crime rates are high in this lovely little land of ours, but to use what amounts to a tank to get to and from lectures is a bit excessive. And excess is beginning to bug me. A lot.

All around us girls and boys are turning 18. For some parents, the main expense will be the hundreds of rands they will fork out on driving lessons and, after that, repeated bookings for repeated driving licence exams. But let’s not go down that landmine-strewn path right now… For others, the main aim is to get their teens behind the wheel of their own car as soon as possible. And I’m not talking about second/thirdhand runabout got down at a knockdown price.

A friend’s daughter turns 18 this week. She is one of a few (two?) in her matric grade who will not be getting a car - at least not straight away. One story doing the dinner-table rounds is of a girl, being driven to school past a BMW outlet on her birthday morn, pointed to a sports version on prominent display with a huge pink bow tied around it. It was waiting for her.

Chances are I’m turning into a curmudgeon. Whateva. I still think a car should be earned, especially a fresh-out-the-box variety, and if it means a bit of footslog/carsharing/two-wheeling free-wheeling then so be it.

Isn’t the new credit-crunch-cool Less is More? It’s time it started filtering down to those who are – hopefully - going to earn a living and contribute to a saner society that decides on purchases along a  “Do I need it?” thought process rather than a “I  want it!” one.

Do you think today’s teens get given too much too soon?

Read more by Robyn von Geusau

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