I GOT served my daily dose of idiot at Jinja’s Igar petrol station on Saturday afternoon.
This wasn’t the day’s first offering of idiot, of course, because I had left home at 0835hrs and driven all the way from Kampala to Jinja; this was just my first personal serving. Custom-made to suit the theme of life dealing with people such as the designated idiot of that hour.
The earlier ones were too random and numerous to warrant much focus – most of them were driving the five thousand cars that failed to observe a basic traffic courtesy of lining up to wait for the cars ahead (mine inclusive) to go through a random road block caused by road construction works on two points along Jinja road.
Speaking of those road construction works, someone needs to explain why the most chicken-brained people in the land get assigned the task of supervising those works. Where are all the intelligent engineers and construction technicians? Where are the ones who can guide traffic in a manner that doesn’t cause thirty-minute build-ups and the creation of five-lane traffic channels on a two-lane road?
So my interaction with idiots had began in the morning, as usual.
The fellow’s name was Isma, I discovered when I parked, because the lady serving fuel called him up quite deliberately when I said I needed to put coolant into the radiator.
The manner in which she called him made me believe that he was the expert at these things, and most likely a mechanic with many years’ experience. I didn’t pay him too much attention as I sought permission to run into the shop to buy a snack for the drive back to Kampala. Both Isma and the lady waved me on and after seven minutes (five of them unnecessarily spent standing at the counter) I was back to find he had emptied the bottle of coolant fluid into the container, and was now pouring in a bottle of water after it.
I absent-mindedly watched the chap pour two more bottles of water before it hit me that we were being quite inefficient. To refill the bottle of water, he kept having to go inside the building all the way to the sink near the toilets.
If you’ve ever had a dry radiator you will know how many trips he was probably going to have to make. At the third bottle, I suggested to him that a small jerrycan would do the job better, to which he remarked with a high pitched laugh: “I didn’t know it would take so much water!”
And off he went to get another bottle-full.
Long story short, I took up my seat to start the engine as is part of the process when one’s putting a coolant mix into the radiator, and began on my little snack.
Shortly thereafter, I saw the bonnet beginning to go down and was a little (very little, to be honest, but a little all the same) surprised that he had ferried enough bottles of water to complete the process.
He placed the bonnet down and then shot me a look of quick, uncontrolled panic.
Our eyes locked for a few seconds during which I read his thoughts clearly.
He was thinking just two words, most probably in Lusoga: “Awwww, shit!”
The bonnet wasn’t shut properly, and, recovering from his panic quickly, he tried to press down on it to force it shut.
Now it was my turn to panic because it was clear he had done something wrong and was going to try and force it correct. As I unstrapped my seat belt and opened the car door, he slapped the bonnet and said something like, “Genda; kati enywedde.” (Go; it’s properly shut.”)
It clearly wasn’t.
I had to nudge him off the car to stop him pressing down on the bonnet, and within seconds had figured the problem out.
You know the rod that holds up the bonnet of a car to keep it up as you work on the engine? And you know how there is normally a clip that holds it back when you are closing the bonnet?
Isma, my designated idiot, did not know this.
Working at a petrol station or garage does not automatically equip one with such knowledge.
Peeping under the bonnet, I noticed the cover of the Coolant bottle perched on part of the engine, and I looked around me to see that Isma had tossed the coolant bottle onto the ground. Worse, the bonnet rod which he had tossed generally into the engine area without clipping it to the bonnet, was now caught in something and so the bonnet would neither open nor close.
Actually, what was worse was that he was now trying to get his little hands under the bonnet to tug at something in order to pry it open.
“That’s all we need to do,” he kept muttering in Lusoga and Luganda.
To avoid the consequences of assaulting him, I sent him off on his way and physically had to push him off before he finally left it alone. He sulked off and declared to the rest of his colleagues that I was being obstinate and refusing to take his advice.
The impertinence was the last straw, and I charged over to explain that I wouldn’t need his bloody advice in the first place if he had shut the bonnet properly, and that the advice was as wrong as it was un-needed!
Eventually I got the bonnet open and cooled down enough to invite him back to pick up the empty coolant bottle, take the bottle cap out of the engine, and study how the bonnet rod mechanism works, before driving off. I felt like a good Christian, having forgiven him, and forgot all about him for a while.
Ten kilometres later, my dashboard lights exploded to indicate that the car was overheating, and the engine failed.
Parking off the road in a safe bush, I opened the bonnet and realised that my run-in with the idiot had proved ME to be an even BIGGER IDIOT for not double checking everything before driving off.
He had placed the radiator cap on and twisted it slightly into place, but certainly hadn’t closed it tightly as the instructions written on it clearly stated. All the water he had poured into it during the trips with the coolant bottle had evaporated into the Jinja air. Much like any intelligence he might have had at birth, since his head had clearly never been screwed on right.