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Young men love cars until the reality of owning one sinks in

Friday June 26 2020
Man and car

Young man having trouble with his broken auto, opening hood trying to fix engine, isolated green trees outside background. Car won't start, dead battery. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

By MARIGA THOITHI

After getting my first 'real' job a few years back, suddenly my dreams got a whole lot bigger. I had moved from an internship position where I earned Sh200 a day to one that paid six figures. In came an interesting problem. I didn't know what to do with all the new money.

Looking back, it wasn't much money but then, it was life-changing and the world was finally at my feet. So I made the decision that many young men make in their 20s when they have more money than sense.

I was going to buy a car. Finally, I was going to be a real man or so I reasoned. I could finally call up my friends at a moment's notice and ask them to join me on a road trip to Naivasha. I could finally pick up my dates from their houses and drop them off at their places. Well, I would honestly prefer taking them back to my place but their place would work well too, to erm, get to know each other better.

I could finally go online and complain about traffic. Finally, I would be able to ask people whether they had parking, every time I was invited somewhere. Not forgetting, that I would join the wagon of people complaining about the price of petrol. At last, I will be able to walk around with car keys in hand because when people buy cars, their pockets thereafter fail to function.

I decided to start shopping immediately, and then that’s when it hit me how expensive cars were. The little coins I had wouldn't afford me those new plate numbers autos paraded on Ngong Road car yards. Not unless I looked for a loan. But my credit score wasn't up to the task.

So, I decided to get an old jalopy in the meanwhile as I saved up for my dream cruise.

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That's was the beginning of a never-ending tragicomedy.

I got a 1998 Daihatsu with just over 420,000 kilometers on it. My uncle warned me against it but I needed a car and that was the only loosely assembled metal body with an engine that I could afford. I knew it didn't run smoothly when I did the test drive but all these were issues I thought I could solve in time.

Men, was I wrong or what? Two weeks into this adventure and the girls hadn't swooned over my car as I thought they would, as my Naivasha plans were killed by my mechanic, Mureithi. He told me I would have my car towed if I attempted to drive out of town. Then I realised just how little power the car had—800 cc wasn't much for the uphill tasks beforehand.

My love would cough and sputter its way up modest hills and I remember her stalling just before the Oloitoktok Road along Parklands, Nairobi. Three hours later, a matatu driver who had gone to Westlands and come back, rescued me. That night I got stuck seven times more because my beloved could not climb the 'steep' Nairobi Hills. Each time we rested, I would want to hide my face so badly, but there was nowhere to play chameleon.

Then the repair costs started. A battery here, a light the next day and a starter a week later, and I was Sh100,000 broker. I wanted to cry so badly. This was heartbreaking.

Then there was the amount that the car cost me with the police. They would look at the car and know they could always get something small from me.

The most memorable time was when the lights went green when I was driving to Kikuyu on a rainy night. Suddenly, a policeman jumped in front of the car, and as I cursed, he asked me to get out and walk to the front. I was driving blind. Oh, did I mention that the wipers were barely working? No wonder driving that night was hard. I had honestly gotten used to how badly the car functioned that I didn't even realise I was using other peoples' lights.

My thighs also grew pretty toned because of the amount of effort needed on those pedals, especially the clutch. I thought about how I had been careful not to sire a child, because of babies-related expenses, yet here I was coughing enough money to take a child to a medium-cost private school.

That thought brought me back to my senses. I disposed of the car at a throwaway price because I was half-ready to leave it at a petrol station and run away.

Thank God, I'm older and wiser now, and that episode in my life has disintegrated into a butt of jokes. What was your experience with your first car?

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