Friday, 7 September 2007

The Price of Ignorance

Well, truly I have accelerated my stay in Cape Town - a job, a car, an apartment - and now I've been ripped off by a car mechanic! Well done, I say! Now all I have to do is get myself mugged, and I'll have accomplished far more here than I ever did in NYC!

Only one week after having bought my beautiful car (who doesn't have a name yet, so I'm accepting ideas now), it died. Going up a hill, all of the sudden, the engine just stopped, and wouldn't start again. Luckily, even though I was on a fairly busy road, I stopped right next to a place where I could squeeze into half a parking space, so I managed not to get hit by traffic. Had to call a tow truck (luckily I had ALSO just had roadside assistance put onto my car insurance) who took it to a nearby garage. The mechanic told me that the carburetor was totally blocked up, and that this was caused by an absolutely filthy fuel tank. So I told him to go ahead and fix both of these things, and it ended up costing a significant amount of money, especially relative to the price of the car. When I asked around, people who knew a little about cars seemed to think that I was getting overcharged. And when I talked to the guy who sold me the car, he freaked out - it sounded like his head exploded, and he said I'd definitely been taken, there was no way that it should ever have cost that much. So my seeming consensus is that I've been scammed.

The whole thing is just so damned frustrating... I'm not used to being so COMPLETELY ignorant of something which is so expensive. I mean, the guy could have told me that a vicious strain of the yard monkey virus had gotten into my fuel tank and gunked up my engine, and the whole engine needed replacing. How would I have known the difference? (other than the fact that there has been a conspicuous LACK of yard monkeys so far... but maybe they've been hiding in the tank!) It really makes you feel incredibly helpless... very frustrating. I think it's made worse by the fact of my American accent - I guess they hear "foreigner" and their eyes turn to dollar signs... er, Rand signs... (and who can blame them? I mean, have you HEARD "Hot Blooded"?!) How I miss the halcyon days of the New York Subway, where having a car is absolutely crazytown. And the only time I ever came close to being robbed was when I got sucker punched randomly on the Upper West Side...

Anyway, I'm not really all that bitter about it. I mean, it's only money, and I can consider it a learning experience. One of my office mates, who's been here for 5 years told me he got similarly ripped off in the car department when he got here, but worse. It must be some kind of initiation into owning a car or something. So this shouldn't add to my reputation for being a curmudgeon... it's just one more amusing anecdote from the land of the penguins...

I also have to say that I really appreciate all the comments people have been posting here. It really makes me feel connected to know that my friends are still out there, reading whatever nonsense I have to say... thanks guys - it definitely helps battle the feelings of isolation. I think that's a good part of why I've been adapting so well...

2 comments:

iandoran said...

Ah yes, it reminds me of the first laptop I bought. This very reputable guy outside a poolhall once offered to sell me a hot laptop dirt cheap. I was curious and so I followed him to his car where sure enough he had a bunch of laptops still in the shrink wrapped boxes (the shrink wrap should have tipped me off). Anyway, I haggle with him for a while and settled on an amount that I could withdraw from the ATM. I purchased my new laptop and he drove off. It did not take me long to figure out that it was actually a brick wrapped in a laptop box with a bit of shrink wrap around it. Needless to say I was a little disappointed in my purchase, but I kept the brick. I still have it in the basement, I mean, who else owns a brick worth $250? At least your car still runs, I can't even do simple arithmetic with my brick. Oh well...

andy b said...

In the same vein, it reminds me of the first car I bought an '88 Daewoo Lamans. I should've realized there was a problem when the radio would randomly shut off. The only logical way to fix it was with a full-fisted bang on the dashboard. Oh well. The ignition stopped working at a certain point. The only logical solution was to only park on hills. Open door, get a little momentum, jump in, put it in first and release the clutch. Viola! When the transmission went the only thing to do was take off the plates (and the kick-ass decal on the steering wheel) and leave it. Hope your car serves you better than mine . . .