Sunday, December 01, 2002

Grand Cafe, Rosebank

Sunday, December 01, 2002

Service: * * * 1/2
Food: N/A
Ambience: * * 1/2
Babe Count: *

A friend of mine likes Chinese women. His ultimate aim is to have a Chinese girlfriend. But that ain't gonna happen anytime soon, since he's a faithful boyfriend to his current girlfriend. And this particular Chinese babe has a husband and kid attached. No hope here.I'm procrastinating my late afternoon away, having an unnecessary cup of tea, and a delicious oversized slice of chocolate mousse cake at the Grand Cafe in Rosebank. It's raining sweatily outside, and even with the shopping mall's aircon, it's still quite a steamy day.

The reason I'm procrastinating is that I've got two promos to write for that client from hell that I fired a month or so ago. The production company was desperate, and said I didn't have to interact with the client. And anyway, making promos is what I do for a living, so it should take me less than an hour to bash out two of the damned things.

In the meantime, I'm chortling happily away over Safran Foer's amazing novel, EVERYTHING IS ILLUMINATED. It's quasi autobiographical, and involves a trip to the Ukraine to track down the place his ancestors lived. He hires an interpreter who is... let's say... relatively unschooled in the use of English. Hilarious. With dark clouds looming. My kind of humour. Black.

And I'm in that kind of space. Last week when I was having lunch in Melville, some dude scraped a tiny dent into my car as he parallel parked. He apologised, and agreed to pay. So I took it off to my mechanic and asked for a recommendation. He suggested a place where he sends all the classic MG sports cars he specialises in. One of these chip repair places. We're talking about a tiny dent, the size of half of my pinky finger.

This little Chinese girl started playing with her mom's cellphone. Making it ring. Continuously. Using an irritating Christmas tune! I almost asked the manager to have her thrown out. But I was moping too much about the colour of my car to take action. Ah well. Next time. No more Mister Nice Guy.So the dude gives me a quote for R450. I phone the chap who smashed my Mazda MX5's delicate paintwork. He agrees with the quote.

I say to Errol at the chip repair place, "Go ahead. But... NO body putty on my car! I want you to please PULL the dent out, and just buff it up. And if you have to use paint, it MUST match."

"No problem," says Errol. And his assistant whips out the automotive sandpaper and starts working on the spot, the spot no bigger than half my pinky. (Please memorise this size issue -- it gets important just now.)

"Uh... why's he sanding that spot?" I ask, suspecting that things are about to go pear shaped.

"No," says Errol, "he's gotta put primer on. Don't worry."

Now I dunno about you, but when I hear the words, "Don't worry," everything in me goes into alert mode. My hairs stand on end. My paranoia muscles twitch into spasm. It's like when the urologist starts babbling about the state of the Hong Kong stock market, and you go, "Huh?" and he waits for THAT moment to jam the Dickoscopy tool into your wee-tube. You just know.

"Hang on!" I say, as the assistant plops a blob of white goo onto a piece of cardboard. He then puts some blue goo with it and starts mixing. "That's body putty!" I say. "I TOLD you I don't want body putty on my fucking car!"

"No, no!" says Errol. "Don't worry. It's just primer."

Thwap. The dude slaps the body putty onto the dent. And proceeds to smooth it off.

"Come on guys! You're supposed to pull the dent!"

"Oh, we can't," says Errol. "They broke in last night and stole one of our compressors and all of the pulling tools. Don't worry. This isn't putty. It's microfill."

"Well take it out of the dent right now!"

"Can't. Once it's in, it's in."

Oh god. So now my original sports car, one of the very first to be shipped into South Africa in 1990, has body putty in a tiny dent. And these muthajunkas are busy sandpapering some more. And some more. And now, from a half a pinky, the area has grown to the size of a sideplate. And it's not even. And they're in a hurry.

We've passed the point of no return.

"Please at least get it straight and flat," I say, "and match the colour."

"No problem," says Errol, and I shudder. And walk away. I don't want to see my car abused.

And when I come back, there's a patch of orange-red paint on my firecracker-red car. And it's uneven. And there's paint spatters all over the door.

"Errol," I say, "I'm unhappy, and this is unacceptable. If this were your car, would you be happy?"

His chin is on his chest. It's three o'clock on a Saturday, and he's got a long drive home to Vereeniging. And he's messed my car up beyond belief. "No," he says. "You're right. It's not cool. Please bring it back on Monday."

Which is why I've accepted the freelance promo job. To pay for a full respray. Cos I know these characters are just schlumpers out to make a living, and that they can't actually afford to pay to have the job done professionally. And I'd be a schlumper myself if I gave the car back to them to mess up further.

So, I pay my waitress, say thank you in Zulu, which elicits a massive grin, and close my book. I've got some promos to write. I've got a car to respray before I get to Somerset West to meet my new soulmate, Heidi. Can't have orange spots on it, can I? Even though orange is one of her favourite colours.

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