BAR GOSSIP: When you’re a night in shining armour

Friday February 23 2018


By Jackson Biko

She texts, “The car won’t start.” This is good news because it’s not the same as, “The car can’t start.”  If a car can’t start it means there is no hope it will start. ‘Won’t’ has some expectation to it. You reply and ask, “Well, why won’t the car start?” She says, “I don’t know. If I knew I wouldn’t be texting you, would I?” You ignore that because it’s the end of the day and she’s in the hospitality business and might have dealt with brusque people who gave her a hard time. She could also be hormonal which means it’s not her talking; it’s the hormones. It’s easier to blame the hormones.

You want to ask her if she has enough fuel but that might be construed as insulting to her supreme intelligence. So you save it for later. “What sound do you hear when you start it?” you ask. She says, “Like the sound of a car starting but doesn’t quite start.” Hmm, helpful. You are no mechanic neither are you a car whisperer. You are just shooting in the dark. You ask about her battery. How old is that battery? How are your battery terminals? “The what?” she texts back. The battery terminals. Have a look at the terminals and see if they have white substance all over them. “What white substance?” she asks. Like snow, you say. Like cocaine. Or chalk.

 “Hang on, let me check,” she texts back. After three minutes she is back on. “I can’t open the boot.” Why are you trying to open the boot, you ask? “To check if these terminals have cocaine or foam,” she says sarcastically. Well, in that case it’s the bonnet; the boot is where your yoga mat is. You add a smiley. She texts back” “Boot, bonnet, whatever. Listen, I can’t open it.” She says the lever that you have to pull under the hood is so far inside she can’t reach it. “How the hell did you open it last time?” you ask. “I didn’t. I never open it. Not to sound like a bimbo, but if I try it will break my nails. Is there someone you can send to help?” Oh of course, you think, we don’t want to ruin the nails.

So you call your mechanic and he doesn’t pick up. You call your old mechanic, the dishonest snake who kept lying about changing parts he didn’t. He picks up but he’s in the village. You can hear hens clucking in the background and – you swear – the smell of lemon. You call her and say, “Listen, you have to get someone to open that boot for you around there. Ask someone without a moustache. And anyway, aren’t those nails removable? Can’t you remove them and put them back on?” She says, “Let me find someone.” Then she hangs up. Moments later, she send a picture of the terminal. They look okay. They don’t have any cocaine on them. “Is the guy still there?” you text her. “What guy?” she asks. The guy who opened the boot for you. She says she figured it out herself (oh wow, progress).

You ask if there are any signs on the dashboard and she says there are none. It’s 7pm and the building where she works is empty. She’s in the basement parking, it’s damp and cold there.

As you are there wondering how the hell this is going to end for her and for you, your mechanic calls. He says he was under a car. You tell him the situation. He says he will send one of his boys to help her out. You call her and tell her to wait – not in the basement, but upstairs – someone is on his way coming to help.

An hour later she calls and says she has been sorted. She’s on her way home. “What was wrong with the car?” you ask and she says she isn’t’ sure but the guy hardly struggled with it. Your mechanic’s guy is very good. Of course. So you call your mechanic later and ask what was wrong with the car. “You don’t owe me anything except the motorbike fare my guy used to and fro. There was no mechanical problem; she was starting the car while the gear was on Drive.”  Your raucous laughter echoes in your femur bone.

You want to make a meal of it but you don’t say anything to her about it. Some things are better left unsaid.