The Car. A non-hippies guide to connecting with the margins
You see cars in South Africa are ridiculously expensive, but I definitely can’t get by without one. I have been needing a car for a while now, but recently Ryan (my boyfriend Shane’s brother),went to do a 6 month DTS in LA and super generously lent me his car!
As you can see, it is definitely a car that stands out. I remember when Ryan first came home with his car all painted everyone was on his case about it. And even when he first offered me his car, I was a little nervous that I would be embarrassed driving around in it.
Of course a car is a car, and beggars definitely cannot be choosers, but since I have started driving it around town I have discovered that this car is a lot more special then I first recognized.
Take the other night as an example. I pulled into the Bergevliet Engen Garage, and as I roll down my window I hear someone yelling “Yabo Bootie.” I look out and see the petrol attendant bounding over, “Oh sorry, where is the Rasta?” (Rasta being Ryan). I started laughing and said “You recognize this car?” The petrol attendant was like “Ya I will never forget this car. The other day it broke down so we had to push it. My name is Bongani.” And just like that the car helped me make a friend with someone who otherwise may have passed by unnoticed.
I have realized that the car has a knack for bringing odd people out of the woodwork; the old man who rolls down his window to shout at me at that he likes the paint, the beggar at my window who instead of asking for money, stops to say how pretty the pictures are, the young pregnant teenager standing on the corner who I once talked to, and now every time she sees the car starts jumping up and down and waving.
People in their fancy mercedes give me a look of disgust or confusion when I drive by, but those people that we often forget about, or straight up ignore, seem to consider the eccentricity of the car an opportunity to bond. Its like they accept me for standing out and looking different, and they actually seem to think it makes me more like them.
It is kind of amazing how something as silly as paint on a car can actually be what we need to break down the barriers in society and start a friendship with someone we would otherwise discount. Driving around in an area like Durbanville, it often feels that people have gone way far out of their way to stay in their bubble. With their SUV’s, aircon and tightly rolled up tinted windows, it is easy to avoid those who are suffering on the street.
I wonder if maybe Ryan had it right, while the rest of us had it wrong when we laughed at him for painting his car. In the last few weeks I have had more fun driving around than ever before. Everyday I look forward to the people I will meet and conversations I will get to have as I drive in what I am starting to refer to as the Hippy/Party Vehicle. Who can bother with embarrassment when every time you forget where you parked in Tygervalley the car guard sees you and starts yelling and pointing to where the car is. It’s actually made me way more generous with these guys as they are so keen at doing their job! Precious time usually spent searching is now saved, while cultural and racial divides are crossed as I make friends with all the Mohammed’s and Gift’s and Bongani’s who watch my car or fill up the tank.