Suzuki Baleno long-termer survives lockdown with grumpy journo

By Willem van de Putte Time of article published May 6, 2020

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Pretoria - It's been six weeks now and I'm missing starting up every morning to take a drive to the office or have a cooler box loaded into my boot to go visit friends for a braai.

Yes, it's me, the long-term Suzuki Baleno test car that was scheduled to be sent back to my owners right about now. That was until this virus called Covid-19 decided to put sugar into the fuel tanks of the world.

Since then I've basically just stood around looking pretty despite the driver having essential services papers that allows him to drive to work and back. However, it's safer to work from home so I'm pretty much idle at the moment, leaping at the chance to get my oil pumping through the 1.4-litre engine occasionally to the shopping centre, literally around the corner.

It's not really an opportunity to make full use of my 68kW and 130Nm but hey, at this stage I'll do anything to get out.

I don't get what it's all about and I can hear the driver curse and complain about some of the regulations above the music he's playing through the Bluetooth connection.

I wouldn't mind warming up my engine properly, a bit like pre-cooked chicken or a garage pie, but that's not allowed according to the all-knowing National Command Council and we dare not query it. A bit like a parent telling a three-year-old because I told you so, don't you think?

There was one occasion when we threw caution to the wind and ventured onto the highway to go to a shopping centre to see if there was enough money in the account to fill the 355 litre boot to feed the family. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed shifting through the gears, often at the red line.

Cornering too, I wasn't really built for that but do my best and take great pleasure in producing the occasional tyre squeal.

Unfortunately many people's salaries have been cut and I hear unemployment is set to reach record numbers so the boot remained mostly empty.

I really do hope that those good people at Suzuki stay around so that they can keep up the good work they have been doing in terms of sales and brand awareness.

The driver wasn't happy when he climbed back behind the wheel, you see, people have been baking like mad things, anything from bread to birthday cakes and everything in between.

You can buy as much sugar as you want or enough chocolate slabs to fill the back seat of the car, where two teenage boys comfortably spent their time on their way to the coast in December, but no sir, you can't buy oven gloves. Not essential I hear.

As much sweetness as you want because obesity apparently isn't an issue but take a puff (of tobacco) and the smoke police will be on you proportionately opposite to the speed they're prosecuting state capture politicians.  

There was one occasion that I egged the driver on to take a spin to Pretoria North, just far enough to get some of the liquids flowing to all my moving parts. You see, he likes the occasional nicotine hit and had stocked up just enough but things were becoming a little "broekskeur" as they say in Afrikaans and buying cigarettes is right up there punishable in the same way as say, oh I don't know, best you ask Bheki Cele, but you'll land your backside in jail quicker than Cyril says you can and then Nkosazana says you can't.

They weren't smokes you could buy over the counter because the government seemingly doesn't need the billions of rand generated by tobacco excises now that the IMF is kicking in the door. A reasonable price too at that stage, not like now where a carton of no name brands on the black market can easily set you back R900.

And I'm not even mentioning that evil liquid booze, where a bottle of cheapskate brandy you would ignore in the bottle store now fetches similar prices.

Jeez at that price even the holder between the front seat and cup holders are going to have to stay empty.

I'm not sure about the guy's mental state though. There's a lot more cussing than I'm used to, even when he takes me outside for another wash.

Just after the mostly faceless command council designed to take the boots off people's throats a little, they threatened every person and his dog, literally, with jail because they dared to go out en mass to stretch their legs for the scrap of time thrown off the table. Again a bit like a spiteful parent only allowing television between six and nine in the morning. Hell, which child isn't going to binge watch?

I digress though because it was a good time to do some vehicle repairs. Not to me though, I have been rock solid throughout not even a top up of oil, but you see the guy owns a Land Rover Defender.

I don't want to cast aspersions on my vehicular family but older Land Rovers need a lot of TLC especially if you're going to be doing silly things like climbing rocky mountain tracks for days at a time.

My job is somewhat simpler, I spend my time on the black top and I do that damn well and comfortably in heat, rain and cold.

Anyway, a call was made to the local Midas to query about a rubber suspension bush that needed replacing on one of the front shocks. At R10 for a bush, that's a bargain you would think.

It was a pleasant drive, the music was playing, there was no need for the ABS, airbags or any of the other safety devices and the parking lot was full, presumably people out in the hope of  resuming some sort of normality.

Masked dutifully, he joined the back of the queue adhering to social distancing and after 20 minutes was asked whether he had a CIPC document. I kid you not.

No siree, a mechanic has to supply the document or he must buy it for you and only if it's an emergency for an essential worker, alternatively your employer must provide you with the document and only if it's an emergency.

Well, as an essential worker those documents aren't good enough. The perished bush and a photo of said shock neither. Because only a mechanic can tell if you need it replaced.

The air turned blue as the colour I've been blessed with but nothing would deter the bouncer at the door. Not his fault, but the insanely ludicrous regulations no one can make head or tail of.

From behind a car came a man and offered his papers to use, so typically South African as we struggle to skin a cat in many different ways to circumvent those apparently in charge.

Buy a rubber bush and fill in a form which is sent to God knows where so God knows who can do God knows what with the millions of pieces of paper filled in around the country every day.

So that's basically how lockdown has been going for Suzuki Baleno, I've been doing three weeks to the litre compared to my usual just over 5L/100km and my steering wheel has never been cleaner what with hand sanitiser constantly being sprayed on the odd occasion I get to roll some rubber.

I do hope though that things change soon and I get a chance to be stuck in a traffic jam on the way to buying cigarettes, booze, car parts or whatever the heart desires. If not, I fear not only for all Suzuki owners but all people teetering on the brink of sanity.

IOL Motoring

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