Saturday, May 26th, 2018

Stay Away From The Hospital!

July 4, 2009 by  
Filed under Steve's Enduro Africa Blog

I thought I would share this little incident that happened a few weeks ago whilst I was in Cape Town.

It was a Saturday morning and I had a 2:30pm flight to Jo’burg on my way back to the UK. I was a bit annoyed that in my eagerness to get home to see my wife and four lovely daughters, I had overlooked that fact the the British Lions were playing the Springboks in Cape Town that day. Poor planning indeed.

Now as one does, when away from the family, I duly rang Gail and asked if there was anything she wanted bringing back from Cape Town. “Yes please” she replied, “I would like some very expensive face cream from that expensive exclusive shop near the hospital, if it’s not too much trouble”.

Of course, nothing is too much trouble for my wife, so I duly jumped into the car and drove into central Cape Town. To my amazement, I managed to find the perfect parking spot right outside the hospital, only 10 yards away from the shop in question. Considerable disappoint therefore that the shop was closed.

Knowing another shop I could try, I jumped back into the car and turned on the ignition. The ignition lights came on but the engine did not turnover. I tried several times but to no avail. I recalled getting out of the car after parking, and pressing the remote locking button but nothing happened. I got out of the car and tried to lock it. Nothing happening.

At this point a traffic warden was looming large. I explained my predicament about just returning to the car but now it won’t start. Just going to the auto-alarm shop, back in a few minutes. He gave me that knowing smile.

I suspected that the remote locking had failed so walked a few blocks to a shop specialising in car radios and alarms. Except it wasn’t there any moved. Fortunately there was a sign in the window with the new address. Only a few blocks so I set off. Not there. Nowhere in sight. I asked at an electrical shop who gave me more directions, only a few blocks away, yet to find a shiny new office block there.

A passer by said he knew where they had moved to and for only R5 he would take me there. This turned out to be a hardware store. Luckily they had a phone book so I found the number for the auto-alarm shop but there was no reply. I rang another branch who said the Cape Town shop should be open. Too far to walk this time.

Time for some help so call Christo, a friend who lives nearby. He’ll know where I can go to get the alarm fixed, or at least get the car started to get home. Only a few hours before I am due at the airport. As expected, Chris was at Giovannis having his (all) morning coffee. He’ll make a few calls and phone me back. Perhaps disconnect the battery and retry he suggested helpfully.

As I has no tools I walk (another) few blocks to a tyre workshop. “Could I possibly borrow a spanner for a few minutes?” I enquired. “I’m afraid tools are not allowed to leave the workshop sir. But don’t worry, I’ll send someone to help you.” Phew. As I returned to the car Christo turned up to help out. He parked blocking the entrance to a parking garage.

As he walked across the road towards me, someone turned up requiring access to the garage. Chris went back to move his car but it wouldn’t start. Now Christo is very well built and some people might think he can be a bit scary (see photo).  Nevertheless, his negotiations skills were sufficient to persuade the driver that he didn’t need to park in his garage right now.

Christo in his early 20's

Christo in his early 20's (faulty aircon)

My battery was now disconnected and we were waiting the 10 mandatory minutes before re-connecting. We went to start Chris’ car but to no avail. We disconnected his battery and reconnected it. Now his alarm was going off and it wouldn’t stop, the car not starting. Same problem as mine.

Chris was starting to get agitated now as he was on his way to the Lions match after helping me. I needed to organise a tow truck to get me home quickly as it was now 12:30pm and I hadn’t yet packed for the flight. I went into a nearby cafe to ask for a phone book explaining our cars wouldn’t start.

“There is nothing wrong with your car” she said, “it’s the hospital, it happens all the time. Push your car down the road and it will start.”

I ran back out to Christo who duly jumped into his car as I pushed (with the aide of a few onlookers). After a hundred yards, Chris turned the ignition and the car started. Bingo! He drove round the block to help push my car. Started too, no problem! Clearly the medical equipment in the hospital was emitting strong radio waves that were interfering with car alarm systems.

Christo headed off the the game and I managed to get back and pack, just making it to the airport on time. It all ended well although the Lions were clearly robbed of victory that day.

As ever, please feel free to donate to my charity motorbike ride.


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