Mobility restored; lessons learnt the hard way



Tony Tetuila’s “hit my car” track from about 10 years back was just a song to me, not until it was dramatised in my life a little over eight months ago. Sadly the culprit wasn’t anyone at all in the mould of Tinubu which would have got me prostrating in hope of better things to come. The culprit wasn’t even on Eedris levels, in which case the fear of shame and face saving would have settled everything. The culprit was like me a bloody commoner and frustrating as the whole experience was, mobility was finally restored with me learning my lessons the hard way.

June 12th was the day. Much like it symbolizes for us in our national consciousness: good turned bad, turned good again; it was for me sort of like the gift and the curse. Some stuff I was pursuing finally materialised on that day but sadly my car was also involved in a crash. The reason being that out of trust built up over some months I had turned a blind eye to the fact that my repaired car would stay overnight in my mechanic’s care. And as fate would have it the worst happened, the car got hit pretty badly and my mechanic sustained injuries, though not too severe. All this left me as confused as Nigerians after The Eagles’ one nil loss to Argentina; hoping for the best but expecting the worst.

What follows are some of the lessons learnt in my eight month ordeal. These are all purely from the Nigerian experience, though first time car owners wherever might still be able to learn a thing or two.

The chief of this is that there’s no substitute for family. Like Baz Luhrmann implied in “everybody's free to wear sunscreen” they’re the ones that will always have your back. My father was immense in this regard. Demoralized, confused and low on cash my Dad encouraged me greatly and we decided against the use of force/courts because face it all lawyers and the police are really interested in Naija style is money. Funds were sourced for the repair to commence, which all in all cost about one third the original purchase price of the car. The agreement reached with my mechanic being he’d take responsibility and pay back in instalments till the refund was achieved.

Naturally the repair was in trusted in the hands of mechanic and his associates. The procedure being body work (panel beating), engineering (mechanical) and then electricals. The basics being done I had to take the car to a different workshop where it’ll be worked on with much more seriousness to take care of the finishing. Because as expected my mechanic just wanted to do the bare minimal and get the load off his chest once and for all. Ideally with money and man power on call this repair could be concluded in a month, but realistically it’s worth noting that after an accident and repairs Naija style the car will never be the same. Like they say there might be forgiveness but the scars will always remain.

A major tip when dealing with car matters is that no matter how busy you are it really helps if you can monitor your mechanic when carrying out repairs. That way you learn more about your car, you protect yourself from the fallouts of a shoddy job and you decrease the turnaround time. Significantly too you potentially cut the cost of repairs down by at least 30% as you get to join in the bargaining (pricing) of spare parts. Note: people will always try to game you if you allow them! Following through on this when it comes to registering or renewing your car particulars it’s best to ditch the Nigerian mentality of always aiming to cut corners. The official way is actually stress free and more economical!

Another tip is that modus operandi wise mechanics like doctors deal with difficult problems by using the same method of diagnosing via a process of elimination. The downside is that this can be costly and futile if the mechanic is inexperienced. You need to watch out for the countenance of a mechanic when at work. A bad workman quarrels with his tools and frowns a lot. A good craftsman on the other hand knows with much greater certainty what needs to be done and does so. Thus as a rule of thumb much older mechanics with years of experience are often better.

Lastly with all certainty I’ve come to realise that mobility is a necessity not an extravagance; it greatly enhances efficiency. The loss of mobility for me was tough to adjust to and bear and it adversely affected my self-esteem. Shout outs to all the commercial riders/drivers. Drive safe people; you might want to interpret this as drive slow and not by faith (hitting on 140 km/hr when you can’t be certain of the condition of the road a kilometre away) to avoid “speaking grammar”, throwing money down the drain and Inconveniencing yourself.

August 3rd 2009. My car when it just came through, courtesy the happy people of Intercontinental Bank and the good people of Mubi, Adamawa State.

June 20th 2010. Some days after the gift and the curse.

November 3rd 2010. Surgery commences.

December 14th 2010. Surgery in progress.

January 12th 2011. Surgery near completion.