Thursday, November 19, 2009

Rosie, the Queen of Crayola, Gets a Nose Job

Two weeks ago, I got in a fender bender while driving to work. Although I am not supposed to deny or admit guilt as per my auto insurance handbook, let's just say that there was distractingly nice sunny weather and a particularly nasty intersection involved. Oh, and also a strangely stationary Peugeot that magically did not turn when I thought it did, leaving me very surprised when the front of my car and the back of the Peugeot were impolite to each other. Please note the use of adverbs employed to qualify the situation. The girl driving said Peugeot was very nice about the whole thing, and information exchange (in the middle of a busy morning turn onto a major street--talk about awkward), breathless call to insurance, a slightly sketchy getting-lost-bit while trying to find the mechanic in Woodstock, and a jointly filed police report (which was a unique experience in itself), I was ready to get my car fixed.

I sustained a series of broken headlights and blinkers on the left side (and, maybe it's not weird but I know nothing about cars, the light covers are made of glass, which made a spectacular auditory addition to the sickening crunch of metal-on-metal on impact) and some damage to the panel and front bumper. The other car had a bent bumper, which I assume will have to be entirely replaced. So, nice work all around. I had to draw pictures for the insurance company and the police report detailing what happened, but I can't post pdfs as pictures on my blog, so you won't be able to enjoy them. Which is unfortunate for you because they were very artistically executed. I couldn't bring myself to take a picture of the damage, so that will also remain undocumented.

A bit of background on the car: Rosie is a 1993 automatic 3-series baby blue BMW. Despite the make, she's seen better days, and her cracking rubber seals, slight shuddering, weird dial clicking, and a host of other small quirks speak to that. However, she gets me where I need to go, has AC, gets decent gas mileage (or L/100K) for a large-ish BMW, and is automatic, unlike the majority of cars here. I couldn't face a manual and adjusting to the other side of the road.

And as for the name: in her early days, she was known as Ingrid, but it never sat right--she's not classy enough. Rosie, the Queen of Crayola, came about organically. I was listening to a lot of Paul Simon, and I'm a fan of "Me and Julio Down by the School Yard (goodbye Rosie, the Queen of Corona). I've also been missing New York a lot--shout outs to you all in the Dojo and Curry Hill and Chicago and where ever else you are; miss you guys--which is part of the reason for the Paul Simon marathon. On top of that, Byron, who has a penchant for making olfactory observations about my surroundings, including "your place smells like pets" (thank you, Byron, I do want a pet), identified the odor emanating from car as particularly crayon-like. I think this has to do with a plastic melting and/or decay issue, but it smelled just like a freshly-opened yellow and green box of Crayolas, points still flat and symmetrical. Rosie also has a charming habit of getting blue goo on anything put under the back seat--opinions vary on whether this is melting plastic or some kind of oil to keep the seats moving back and forth smoothly--but I somehow suspect that her particular scent is related to that issue. Anyway, this is how Rosie, the Queen of Crayola, came about.

I dropped Rosie off at Peter Panelbeaters (sidenote: I always wanted to say Peter, Peter Panelbeater but was unsure whether that would elicit a laugh or a very confused and awkward conversation elaborating on how that connected to pumpkin shells and keeping your spouse financially supported). And of course, during the week she was away there was nasty Cape Town weather--rain, wind, and cold. Luckily there are very nice people at work that were willing to chauffeur me around, so I was OK for the most part.

I got the call Friday that it was time to pick her up, and so I enlisted Morgan (and her, Byron, and Wenli's car, Edna, a white Toyota Conquest) to get me to Peter Panelbeaters in Woodstock. Cape Town is hard to navigate in that while one street might look OK, a wrong turn will quickly take you into a sketchy part of town, and scary enclaves exist next to busy areas, tourist spots, and very fancy neighborhoods. Once you get into a somewhat dodgy area, like Woodstock or Obs, making the wrong turn can be a bigger problem.

My card was declined, and so I had to find an ATM in Woodstock or risk not getting Rosie back all weekend because the panelbeater closes at 3pm (thank you, South Africa. I really don't know how anything gets done around here without playing hooky from work, though if I had a shop in Woodstock, I'd probably close at 3pm too). It's a sort of industrial, near-the-train-tracks place, with lots of legitimate and what look like not-so-legitimate car shops. The woman who runs Peter Panelbeaters told me that there was an ATM nearby and sent Charlie, a nice man from the garage, along with me, Morgan, and Edna, to find it. Charlie was meant as protection, and after learning that my former landlady had been mugged over the weekend after leaving the bank, I felt that this was a good thing.

Morgan is very brave, and I feel grateful to her for allowing me to drag her out of work and around Woodstock. She's a good driver, and does an excellent job with a manual transmission, but being new to the trade, she doesn't always feel confident about it. She shouldn't feel that way since her shifting skills are just fine, but driving with a stranger who also happened to work with cars professionally, she was understandably a bit nervous about stalling.

Long story short, with Morgan double parked in heavy, minibus-taxi-laden traffic, I sidled up to an outdoor ATM vestibule (like an open telephone booth) adjacent to a very, very shady looking garage that I think might more accurately be called a chop shop, and withdrew cash as Charlie stood behind me, arms behind his back like a bouncer (he was small but capable looking), while men of a less-than-wholesome appearance circled around. I've never been more nervous withdrawing money, since I would never under normal circumstances ever go anywhere near an ATM in a neighborhood like that. Luckily, nothing happened, and Charlie got us back safely, after warning us that we should not venture onto backstreets here because we look like we don't belong in "gangland." Thanks to Charlie and Morgan all around.

So now, Rosie is back, and cleaner and sleeker than ever. Her "spa treatment," "week at an exclusive resort," "drinking lots of water," or whatever it is Californians say when they're recovering from cosmetic surgery, did her a lot of good. She looks well rested and so much younger. keep in the habit of photo sharing, here are some pictures from the walk I took last Sunday with Morgan, Byron, Wenli, and a friend of a friend of Wenli's. These were all taken within five minutes of my new apartment. As you can tell, I got vaguely excited about the settings on my camera.

Pine trees burned in a fire

The view up Devil's Peak, with stand of eucalyptus trees

Proteas (?) or some kind of fynbos or coniferous plant burned out in a fire to look like flowers

Charred log, looking up towards Devil's Peak

Table Mountain and on the right, the Disa Park towers, where I almost lived (the shoebox sized apartments)

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