It’s a common misconception that motoring journalists don’t have their own cars. My colleagues and I all have our own vehicles and, truth be told, they sometimes serve as a necessary break from the brand new machines we drive most weeks.
Having your own car also helps you understand the plight of the average motorist, because like them, we also have to pay for their upkeep. This differs from test units in the sense that these are always fully fuelled, insured and specified to be as luxurious as a sheik’s holiday home.
My own car is a humble Kia Picanto, but I adore it for many reasons, one of which is that I can drive it flat out wherever I go, without ever breaking the speed limit! In that sense it’s a million times more fun than a Range Rover Sport, which can get you an audience with a judge faster than it can get to its top speed of 250km/h.
Even though I drive the Picanto hard, it never uses more than 7,5 l/100km, which really matters if it’s your own car and you don’t get to send it back after a week-long fling.
The only thing I hate about my own car is its tiny fuel tank. It may be frugal, but it goes through its “can” (it feels an exaggeration to call it a tank) of fuel faster than the previously mentioned Range Rover Sport can use up its 86 litres.
Anyhow, back to the plight of the average motorist. My Picanto’s licence expired just before the Post Office strike last year, but I had hopes that my renewal notice would sneak through just before the workers downed their metaphorical tools. Alas, it was not to be and soon the 21-day grace period came and went. Luckily, I’m in a position where I have other vehicles at my disposal, so the Picanto was left unused in the garage.
By early December I started worrying, because the postal strike was over and my licence renewal form still hadn’t arrived. It’s also no use phoning the Post Office to get information, because the customer care centre is about as useful as Eskom’s load shedding schedule.
The form finally arrived early in January and I set off with the paper in hand the very next day. The nearest post office to my home is in the [email protected] in Centurion, but I was informed, via a piece of A4 paper with some scribbling and a few spelling errors on it, that the licensing system was not operating that day. My iPhone quickly found another post office nearby, so I went there instead.
Mercifully, the queue leading to the counter was short and two people were working the computers behind the bulletproof glass. When it was my turn, I approached the lady behind the glass and gave her my friendliest greeting and wished her a happy New Year. I stated the purpose of my visit and she immediately reprimanded me for coming to the wrong window. Her computer didn’t support the renewal of licences, which meant I had to get back in line.
I looked left and right for the notification boards, but couldn’t find any. After I pointed this out to her, she booted up her system in an unenthusiastic fashion, which turned out to have the required software after all.
At this point she informed me of the late renewal fine I’d have to pay in order to get my vehicle’s new licence. I pointed out that the only reason I was late was that they had been on strike and failed to deliver my notice of renewal to me in time. As it turns out, it wasn’t her problem.
I was faced with two options. I could have stood there, on my trusted soapbox, or I could just pay the R200 and enjoy what was left of one of my few remaining vacation days. To avoid getting tangled in a mass of red tape, I forked over the money and left. It was only afterwards that I noticed that the Post Office’s slogan appeared on the bottom of the slip: “We deliver, whatever it takes.”
I have a proposal for a new system. I can buy movie tickets from my phone, so why can’t I do the same for my vehicle’s licence? I could pay online with my credit card, get a reference number that I could type into a machine that could be located at every mall in my immediate vicinity, and it could spit out the new licence. No mess, no fuss.
I know this system would work, because it works beautifully every time I go to the movies. Thanks for that, Ster Kinekor. Won’t you guys please phone the Post Office and tell them how you did it?