The news that I had decided to buy a car caught Mom Tina more by disbelief than delight. She looked at me disapprovingly and asked if I was ready, already😏. ‘Is that how someone, your own mother, should react to big news like this?’ I thought in disappointment.
“I think I am, I have been planning for it for some time now”. I said cautiously, with a considerable emphasis on planning- to pass the message that I had thought about it; and slightly less emphasis on think- to leave some room for her opinion. But Tina is not a woman to leave you in the ‘I think’ zone. In an attempt to convince me otherwise, she tabled all the other options where I could use my money, challenged me to consider investing the cash instead and maybe get the car when I had a stream of other incomes, presented the challenges that come with owning a car and started telling me the story of how her own husband had only gotten his yellow Peugeot when they were at a comfortable place financially. I zoned out; with my left palm unable to make a choice between presenting itself to my mouth for nail-biting or scratching my now itchy forehead. They say that the two types of people that you cannot advise are 1. ‘A woman in love’ and 2. ‘a man with his money’…But have they met a woman with money who thinks she is already in love with how she intends to spend that money? I doubt it!
Eventually, when I could not pretend anymore, I took a long breath and cut her short…”Moooom, I was just telling you that I am buying a car…not asking you if I can buy it’! And that ended there- with a shocked mother who had just discovered that it is like she had lost a daughter to financial shortsightedness and a daughter who felt that she knew better.
I used to think that the 8-4-4 system was a fake, until I decided to apply my driving school knowledge on the ground. Those instructors make you believe that you know everything just by driving those toy cars on that town board, and driving for 500 meters for practicals under instructions. When you hit the road on your own-in a real car; hapo ndio unajua haujui!
The first two weeks took me on an emotional and financial roller coaster. I even called Tina to inform her that I no longer needed a car. After much thought, consulting my mind and soul and also beseeching the lord, he had revealed to me that the foot’subishi alergy that I previously thought I had was a false alarm. (Btw folks, when you are about to buy a car, there is this spirit which crawls to your soul and starts convincing you that this matatu life is not for people like you…and you also suddenly become allergic to walking!)
The only good thing that happened in the first two weeks was punctuality. When you think about Jogoo road and those Eastland’s matatus and their impatient hooting to rookies, sleep is no longer your portion. You will wake up at 4 am, eat well for your eyesight and energy, pray for your journey and hit that road before the crack of dawn.
That was then. If I knew what I know now, what would I say to you new driver or new car owner? (If you are a veteran, correct me if I am wrong…)
- Cars, just like babies, will make you second guess yourself. Am I paying enough attention? Am I too careless? Do I suffer from amnesia when it comes to traffic rules? Could I be visually challenged when it comes to potholes? Is misfortune in my lineage? Could bad luck and I be distant cousins? On one very bad day, you will pull your car out of traffic to have a woman to man talk with your maker. Whatever it is that you are punishing me for, God I am sorry. You will take a moment to think about your life before and after you bought your car and consider returning it to the manufacturer and demand for payment for the stress it has caused you. You will notice, with a lot of pain, that this car is like that demanding girlfriend who cannot understand your financial problems. (Vibes like ‘Find a way to get money to fix this, you are a man of means, it doesn’t matter what time of the month it is, just deal). You will notice that you are probably not doing well spiritually because ever since this babe came to your life, you took it upon yourself to explore all the taverns in town; and on weekends, you are constantly on the move-testing these chinese roads. That said, Sundays catch you away, or with a fine hangover. You will also realize that it is like you are experiencing mental retardation because half of your mind is occupied with this car and its problems. Then, you will look at your friends and wonder why they never go through your ordeals. Where did you go wrong, you?
- Learn to pay attention.
I remember the first time I had a slow puncture and I drove till it went fully flat. And even when I could hear that noise flat tyres make, I kept driving with a small quarrel in my head like- “hizi vitu ziko chini ya bonet zinaitishana nini sasa?, sasa si mngoje hata tufike home ndio muanze kelele?!”… Cars have their own little language of communicating with you- red indicators, orange indicators, specific sounds and so on. So listen, and pay attention. Also, at a bare minimum, be interested in understanding basic car stuff; throttles, coolants, oil levels, servicing requirements, tyre replacements, what this sound and that noise means. And finally, learn how to look at the rear mirror and side mirrors all at the same while still focusing on the road ahead.
3. Accidents happen, even to the best of us. The best thing that anyone told me was that ‘no one gets to the road intending to cause an accident, it happens even to the best of drivers’. So take it easy. But who am I kidding? You get into accidents and start writing a book of what you could have done differently. You hit potholes and pavements full force and then the next day you are lining up for glasses because you feel like you now have ‘eye problems’. For every mistake you make, you find yourself giving excuses and justifying how you did no wrong consciously. My advice? Get the lesson and move on
4. Once beaten twice shy. I have made many bad decisions with my car which would have been avoided if I had consulted. Some have cost me A LOT, others have just cost me my own peace of mind. First, there exists this crème of men who believe that they have all solutions for your car and in as far as they are concerned, your mechanics have been doing a horrible job. (My sister, RUN).. Then, there are the mechanics meant to solve one problem but then the engineer in them tells them to look for all other problems there might be. You even stop getting surprised when they bring the car back having ‘fixed’ all other problems apart from that specific one that took you to them in the first place…
5. Be handson. When it comes to your car matters, be there; both mentally and physically. Do not take your car to the garage and then leave it there to go attend to matters of national and global importance. Also, do not leave your car in the hands of strangers. Be curious, be involved, ask questions, research, consult, ask around, know your car and its needs and stuff like that….
Finally, always remember that you owe a duty of care to the other road users. Do not text while driving, avoid calls when driving, be sane on the road, do not drink and drive and keep your eyes on the road.
Happy driving to you!