“It’s easy,” Servaas says, “all you need to do, is to look for the blown fuse. Wrap a bit of tinfoil around it, push it back, and it’ll work again.”
They are standing around the open bonnet of the old Ford, discussing ways to get the motor running again. Vetfaan says it worked still perfectly when he parked the vehicle in front of Boggel’s Place, but now it refuses to start. They’ve checked the battery and fuel, made sure the radiator is filled, and had a few beers. Having (in their minds) done everything possible, they now have reached the end of their problem-solving abilities.
“I read somewhere it is dangerous to do that. If a circuit gets overloaded, you can burn things out.” Vetfaan isn’t sure what could burn under such circumstances, but he’s not willing to take a chance. “Anyway, the fuses seem to be okay.”
“Well, to get this pickup to a mechanic in Upington, isn’t going to be easy. I wouldn’t like to tow her over the track to the main road at Grootdrink. Maybe we can get the mechanic to come here?”
“Sure.” Sarcasm drips from the words. “That man is going to drive out here and poke around. Then he’d say he needs to get the vehicle to his workshop. All that we’d have managed, is to add a call-out fee to the final account.”
“What about taking the engine out, putting it on the back of a bakkie, and then take it to Upington? Then we won’t have to tow the whole vehicle – we’d just take the sick part to the hospital.” Precilla sounds hopeful, but blushes when she sees the looks the men give her.
“Ahem.” Gertruida gently pushes Vetfaan out of the way, waving a small, white handkerchief. With seemingly effortless movements, she removes the distributor cap, cleans the points with the dainty cloth, and replaces the cap. “You can drive now.”
Gertruida says MOM is a genetic condition in half the population – Male Obstinate Myopia. They’ll talk for hours about a problem without going to the trouble of reading the instruction book. They’ll rather get lost than to ask for directions. Even if they lose an argument, they still believe they’re right.
Women, she maintains, inherit POP – Practical Observational Perception, the skill of learning from others.
Vetfaan can’t believe it when the engine starts with the first try.
“Gee, Gertruida, how did you figure it out?”
“Easy, Vetfaan. I smelled the petrol a mile off. Obviously you had electricity and petrol. There had to be a reason why the petrol didn’t ignite in the cylinders, which points to dust on the distributor points. Anybody can figure it out.”
Being a gentleman, Vetfaan takes her back to the bar to buy her a beer.
Being a lady, Gertruida doesn’t tell him about her trip to Upington the week before. When her car refused to start, she spent a frustrating hour trying to find the problem. When at last she gave up, the mechanic charged a rather exorbitant fee to come and have a look. That’s where she learnt to handkerchief trick. Gertruida says that’s the part of being female that men will never understand: the ability to solve apparently impossible problems with a bit of luck and a handkerchief. If you can’t fix it, you can dab your eyes and cry a little. The mechanic relented and said it’s okay, she doesn’t have to pay.
She isn’t going to be that stupid. A free beer and the men’s humbled faces are worth more than the mechanic’s original quote. Just like the advertisement says: it’s priceless.