Thrilling, huh? I’m surprised you’re still with me.
Since we bought our little car, I have spent a somewhat disappointing, although at times enlightening, amount of time in car-related stores.
Remember that foul week I spoke of? Well, this day was one of the days of that week. I had not be long into my Kumasi driving foray, when the left rear of the car was clipped as I turned a corner.
But no need to panic, it all happened very slowly, no one was injured. And perhaps most importantly of all, the car which hit me was a company vehicle (not an errant tro-tro, thank God); and they were more helpful and polite than I could have hoped for.
Driving in Ghana bends all traffic rules known to man. The main roads are far too congested for their own good. Cutting into traffic, or turning onto a main road means spotting the tiniest gap in the traffic, putting your nose out there, and essentially making the traffic stop while you cross into your lane.There is also a system, utterly mysterious to me happening at intersections; when oncoming traffic will slow down, sometimes flash their lights at you, and let you cross. But the crossing happens like a chaotic maypole dance, when you are sure someone would cross in front, they cross behind, and, well, its all quite confusing.
And I keep using my indicators just to confuse people.
Now the poor young guy who hit me was just a little impatient, and probably a little nervous about joining the main flow of traffic.
So, bang! The tail is clipped. We both pull over, and my panic levels are rising sharply. I fully expect to be shouted at, told I was a stupid obruni…etc etc etc. Within seconds there is a small crowd of onlookers, because this wouldn’t be Africa if a crowd didn’t gather. And after a few minutes of staring at the cars, brief phone calls and me surreptitiously writing notes to myself; the young guy’s boss arrives. I have no idea where from, but he asks if I can give him a lift to their office. And that’s another African thing, people give total strangers lifts in their cars all the time. Can’t get a taxi? Wave down a passing car, and if they are heading in the same direction, its all good. But me, with my massive developed-world personal space, is finding this a little weird. But I consent, and its all fine. The workplace is a few hundred metres down the road. We discuss options to fix the car, and I learn another of life’s lessons. Don’t involve the insurance company for minor issues.
Several discussions and phone calls later, the transport manager of the company joins me in the car, and we drive off to a smash repair shop. Now the really weird thing happens…
In a continent where things often operate at a different pace to Australia, and things rarely go right the first time, the car is fixed, that very day. The transport manager and I spend a day in a smash repair lot, watching each step of the process. It was long, it was hot, and by the end (as school pick-up rapidly approached), it was pretty tedious. But it happened.
Want to see how?
I’ve never seen this done before, and admit I was feeling somewhat apprehensive at this point. I mean it looked bad, and I have seen plenty of cars driving around Kumasi bearing these scars. I really didn’t want my car to be one of them.
Things are looking better. These young men start the long and careful process of fibre-glassing over the blow torch scars. Note the PPE worn by the young man on the right as he avoids the fumes of the fibre-glass.
He was super keen to have his photo taken, this is one of several he insisted upon me taking.
As I guess with most smash repair shops, it’s a largely male domain. Women walked through often selling sachets of water, and this sweet little boy and his sister. I’m not sure if they were looking for mum or dad, but they spent the majority of the day around the shop. I wondered why, his older sister in particular, was not at school. But unfortunately, this is a pretty common sight; kids wandering about in the day, unsupervised and not at school. No one seemed to mind and they certainly knew not to meddle with people working.
After the patching was complete, we got back in the car. One of the repairers driving, the transport manager, and me. We drove a few kilometres down the road, to the back of a large building. Unfortunately I have no photos of what was probably the coolest part of the day. A paint splattered table covered with pots of auto paint. No computer, no fancy scanner, no manuals detailing the precise mix-up of an Opel Astra silver paint. Just a man with a very fine eye. He mixed some paint, dabbed it on the car to check colour, added a few judicious drops of black paint, and voila! Almost indistinguishable (I hoped!)
Back to the smash shop, and we sit and wait for another paint job to be completed. At this point we are getting very close to when I have to leave to collect the children from school. The repairer assures me it will be finished in half an hour. What he didn’t tell me that we would have to wait a further half hour for the paint to dry. I’m feeling hot, tired and bloody hungry. A sachet of water and a bag of popcorn does not a lunch make. But, I’m still amazed so much as happened thus far, and I really, really didn’t want to return the next day, so I bit my tongue (as much as I could).
Picking up that I was in a rush at this point, the spray booth was deemed unnecessary. It really didn’t seem to make any difference.
And we are done!
I’m still in shock that it all happened between 10am and 2.30pm, and that includes the smash.
Here’s one from the smash shop that wasn’t so lucky.