It was with a heavy heart that White Lightning, my closest companion since 2006, was admitted to the car-hospital this week. Unfortunately, this has become a frequent event for me from the time he reached the grand old age of 200 000km, so much so that the car mechanics recognise White’s tender hummm when I roll up to the garage.
My friendship with White Lightning has been incredibly strong. I mean, how many friends do you spend two hours of every day with? This is our bonding time en route to campus from the northern suburbs.
In that time you really get to know someone.
Together we have stamped our place on the Barry Hertzog strip. To date there has not been a single fully-loaded taxi we have not been able to overtake. It’s a tough challenge, I know – White is not the fastest off the mark. He’s proven to be fully dependable so long as you don’t try to go over 55km/h, hence the origin of his rather apt name, White Lightning.
I’ll never forget the day when the mechanics all crowded around the pit and asked me: “How did you manage to drive around for four months with broken CV joints like that?”
Seemingly, White Lightning had been “living beyond death”, as one mechanic put it. Admittedly, White does predate South African democracy and still has a Nokia hands-free kit that fits an old brick, but that simply makes him a bit old-school.
Many of my peers in the newsroom have relationships with similar skedonks and I can completely relate to their gripes about the e-toll and petrol price increases which add to their living costs. In fact, from the beginning of this year I have spent over R3 000 on petrol alone. (Let’s not get into the extra costs of a new set of tyres, battery, lights and boot cable.) I have even made contingency plans to re-route my usual back-routes once everyone starts using them to avoid the e-tolled highways.
I can say with pride that we care enough to prolong the lives of cars like White Lightning across campus, despite not having much spare cash.
While everyone else will be relaxing on Workers’ Day, I know I won’t be the only student spending some quality time with their skedonk, giving him his first wash of the year.