Sunday, 31 May 2015

Maybe Owning an Old Car is Not Too Bad After All

I drive an old car, call it a bucket on wheels, if you will. My sister calls it a Cop Magnet. Let me explain. When I first acquired it, to put it modestly, the car had its best days behind it. At the time, it was a bright orange in colour. Invariably, because of it's distinct colour and overall condition, it always tended to draw the wrong sort of attention, mostly from eager cops out to make a quick buck. 

As it turns out, it is not only the cops that have an opinion about my car. My girlfriend, while always insisting that I dispose it off,  believes that the car is older than I am. When we initially started dating, she always insisted that I put a tint on the windows. I doubt that it has anything to do with the sun. My friend on the other hand once quipped that 'the car does not fit your image,' whatever that means. My dad on his part, says rather supportively, 'at least you have a car.' :-) Thank you dad.

Initially, whenever we spoke on the phone, he would ask, "How is your Mercedes?' (never mind that it is actually a Toyota). I think each time I said, it's okay daddy, he was somewhat surprised that it was still on the road but inwardly proud that the car was still running. After all, it is my first car and I bought it from him at a modest price. It therefore has sentimental value for both of us.

But what do I think? Well, I like my Prado (that's what I call it), mostly for practical purposes. After all, it gets me from point A to point B and it has, to a great part, been kind to me. Save for the time three tires had a flat on a trip to Magadi. Or that time that the battery went flat right on the edge of the same lake and my girlfriend had to push it to kick-start it. Or the time the clutch system failed and I had to sleep in some god forsaken town. Or that time that the leaking carburetor ran out of water and the car stalled right next to parliament. 

To be honest with you, there are times that other people's thoughts about my car have given me reason to pause and tell myself, 'maybe it's time I disposed it off.' Other than the sentimental value that the car holds for me, and my family, I do not wish to dwell on the other reasons that I acquired it and that I keep it, in the first place - and they are surprisingly many. Nonetheless, it is worth noting some lessons that are not lost to me, as an old car-owner.

If you own an old car, one thing that you learn very early is the parts of the car, how they work and how to fix them. Initially, just after I had acquired the Prado, it had a recurrent problem with the clutch system. I called a fundi, who fixed it. Unfortunately, the problem surfaced again. I took it to a second mechanic who fixed it. Three days later and having spent a small fortune, the problem came back again. 

A little frustrated, my next stop was google. Based on my previous observation and convinced that I knew what the problem was, I went out and bought a toolkit. I got off my shirt, wore an old pair of trousers and got under the hood. Four hours later, after a lot of fumbling, sweating and after a trip to a local parts dealer at Industrial Area, I managed to replace the slave cylinder and the master cylinder. Its six months and counting, the problem has not recurred since.

If you own an old automobile, another thing that you learn early is caution. There are things that you will do that new car owners tend to ignore. Yes, and for obvious reasons. For instance, you will always tend to keep a distance from other cars in traffic. Another thing is that despite how fast you car can drive, you somehow tend to drive a lot slower. You don't want to be doing 120KPH on the highway and all of a sudden, right ahead of you is your front tire veering away from the car. 

An old car, in a sense always always tends to refocus your priorities. Let me explain. There is always the excitment of owning a car. If it's a new whip, the initial excitment is over the top. For most of us young'uns, and I know that I am generalizing here, we will aways tend to show off our new acquisition. We are wired to seek recognition and acceprance.

Those first days, with your new wheels, you might end up ferrying your pals for Masaku Sevens or drive down for The Great Rift Valley Festival. Unless you have deep and well lined pockets, not counting the cost of accommodation and entertainment, the subsequent dent caused by fueling the car would be considerable. For most of us, old car owners, I doubt you would find our old station wagons or dated pickups parked at Blankets & Wine any time soon.

I once had a friend who referred to his car as a Pussy Magnet. Well, I am not sure that he was referring to the nice, cuddly bundles of fur that nested on the warm bonnet of his spaking new german machine. With an old car, while you are likely to find an occassional cat sleeping soundly on your bonnet, you are less likely to attract the wrong sort of attention, unless it is from the cops ofcourse.  

Referring to my car, a friend once told me goodnaturedly that, 'if your girlfriend let's you drive her in that car, she will probably marry you.' Well, I am not sure about that one. One thing I know for sure is that although my Prado isn't the best thing I have ever owned, it has certainly given me some of the most memorable moments in recent times.Maybe it isn't so bad to own an old car afterall?
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