On Driving in South Africa, Part 2

It took us approximately two weeks to not turn on the windshield wipers every time we wanted to turn left or right in our rental car. It’s hard to fight instinct. Since we’ve switched out our nicer rental (which looked a LOT less nice when returned it–Sorry, Avis! Please be gentle on the charges!), our new one’s got the turn signalerthingy on the left side. Now, we’re back to using the windshield wipers when we turn. It’s hard to fight instinct.

I’m so glad things aren’t worse. Or manual.

About a month before we left for Cape Town, as I was doing research on car leases, I realized how expensive it would be to rent an automatic. Most places quoted about $500-$700/month for an automatic, compared to $200-$300 to lease a manual. Unemployed and desperate, my dad patiently took an afternoon to teach me how to drive manual.

But in Mississippi, learning to drive manual means that you get to do it on property that no other cars are using. It means it’s flat and slow. It means that when you stall, you’re only embarrassed in front of your dad.

Hence, the whole renting a manual thing didn’t pan out. Cape Town is hilly. The streets are also TINY–like, so tiny, that you sometimes have to pull over so the oncoming car can squeeze through, and you’re still afraid they’re going to hit you. Also, that whole left-hand-side-of-the-road thing.

So, about a day before we leave for Cape Town, I find a small rental company which advertises a “Student/Mature” car to lease for cheap. No pictures. No mentions of the age or mileage. No reviews. In fact, I can’t find anything about this company other than their website. I book the car, with the naivety only a foreigner can possess. Here, have our Credit Card number! Copies of our Passports! Copies of our Drivers Licenses! I know nothing about you, but here, have it alllll!

The day before “Student/Mature” (so exciting!) is to be dropped off, I send an email to the driver along the lines of, “We’re staying at a guest house, we don’t have our own doorbell, just call me when you get here, blah blah blah…”

Driver doesn’t like that. Actually, driver emails me back:

“I will not like to drive to you to deliver the car and come to no man’s door.”

Huh?

Ok, so I suggest making alternative plans.

He says, “Let’s meet at this gas station in the middle of nowhere.”

I say, “Great!”

Chas says “Uhhhh…”

On our way there, I start to get anxious. I start googling him, expecting to find other people who have been scammed by him, people out there that will tell us to GET OUT BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE THIS GUY TOOK OUR MONEY BECAUSE HE DIDN’T WANT TO COME TO OUR NO MAN’S DOOR AND WE DIDN’T EVEN GET AN OLD CAR OUT OF IT.

I find his Facebook page, and somehow, that’s strangely comforting. I figure, if he is a scammer with a fake identity, at least he took the time to make a Facebook page.

“And what, really, could be the scam here?”, Chas suggests, trying to make us feel better as we turn into the gas station. “We do get a student/mature car out of it. If we don’t like it, we leave. We haven’t signed anything.”

I wince. Did I not tell him?

This story’s ending is a lot less exciting than I’ve set it up to be. It turns out, of course, that the guy is super nice, gives us great advice on where to eat dinner that night, and hands over the keys to an old car. We name it “Lumpy” (or sometimes “Ol’ Lumps”, “Lumpy-Dumpy,” “Lump Sandwich”). He’s got over 250,000 kilometers racked up, and I hold my breath every time we trek up a big hill. Also, the brakes are so squeaky, that the first night we park at our place, our hostess runs out of her house with a look of terror on her face to see what could be making that horrible, horrible sound. But, he’s our Lumps for the foreseeable future. Our very own Lumps.

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3 thoughts on “On Driving in South Africa, Part 2

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