From 2006 to 2008, I studied at the University of Cape Town which is roughly 40 kilometres from my house. Petrol was (and still remains) very expensive, so the logical thing to do at the time was to find people who lived nearby and wanted to share the driving and cost of petrol.
It was quite a big step for me. I love my car, and I love being alone in my car to listen to the music that I want to listen to, to sing along as loudly as I feel is appropriate, to blast the aircon as much as I feel is necessary, to stop off wherever I feel my heart or stomach leading and to drive as slowly or as fast as I want without having to endure any comments. I also don’t enjoy waiting for others, and we all know that patience is a virtue and a necessity in any lift club.
Phew, there were a lot of ‘I’s’ in that paragraph, but I suppose I do just feel plain selfish when it comes to my car – it’s MINE, ALL MINE, mwhahahaha. Ahem, let me compose myself. I thought I’d compile five reasons, based on my own experiences, why you should think twice before car-pooling or starting a lift club:
Reason 1: The Waiting Game
There were 4 people in my lift club at one stage – a drama queen, a Russian and a serious joe. The four includes myself for anyone who is mathematically challenged. The four of us had agreed to wait for each other for up to a maximum of 2 hours to compensate for different lecture times. The problem is that serious joe was also seriously forgetful.
We would all assemble at the agreed upon home time, and serious joe would have somehow lost his keys, misplaced his wallet or dropped his student card during the course of the day. Russian would give him a hard time which would create awkward vibes. He’d always say something like, “I keep my keys in my one pocket and my smokes in the other pocket, what’s so difficult about that? We’re guys, that’s why we have pockets.”
Although I agreed wholeheartedly, I didn’t want to have to endure a 40km drive with awkward vibes, so I’d suggest that we help to find the misplaced item. Of course, by the tenth time it happened, I was far less patient, in fact, I was most probably the source of ALL tension as I let rip on serious joe and became frightfully serious myself.
Unfortunately, when it came to serious joe, he wouldn’t just lose things that took time to find. He would also forget things – like the fact that he had an essay due the very next day and the book he needed was only available on short loan and therefore needed to be photocopied – all 100 pages! Or he’d forget which day it was, agree to leave with us at 3pm and then realise that he actually needed to stay til 5pm.
It just felt like we were always waiting for serious joe – me, the Russian and the drama queen – waiting together, all feeling miserable that we couldn’t just leave. The traffic was crazy in the evenings, so the longer we waited, the longer the car drive home would be. It was a serious waiting game, and with the unlikeliest combination of people!
Reason 2: Unreliable Cars
Between the Russian, the drama queen, serious joe and myself, we had 2 and a half cars in our lift club. My car and the drama queen’s car were in good nick. On the other hand, serious joe’s car was falling to pieces (hence the half) and Russian didn’t own a car (apparently he had written it off in an accident). Russian agreed to pay for his lifts instead of driving.
In theory, there should have been quite a few days when I got a break from driving, but this was not the case. Drama queen had recently passed her driver’s licence after failing three times, and she was too scared to drive beyond a particular shopping centre. This is where we would fetch her every morning. So she also landed up paying for her lifts instead of driving.
Serious joe’s brakes were failing. It was very scary, I prepared myself for death many times over that period. He maintained that his brakes were fine, but honestly, when the whole car starts vibrating and you have to turn the nose out so you don’t hit the car infront, your brakes are so not fine dude!
There were various other things failing on serious joe’s car, but my real gripe was the fact that he would often lock his keys in the car or leave his lights on. We spent many an afternoon breaking into his own car with a hanger (which couldn’t have looked good in that neighbourhood) or attempting to push start it – it didn’t work, ever! Despite the fact that his lights were left on several times and I had let him have it for not owning jumper leads, serious joe did not catch a wake up call. The Russian, the drama queen and I would sit on the pavement hopelessly while serious joe appealed to strangers for help – which doesn’t get you very far if you don’t have jumper leads.
In the end, I became the driver. My petrol costs were just about covered – although getting people to pay is another trial in itself – and I was the sole driver. I really didn’t see that one coming.
Reason 3: The Clash of Personalities
What do you get when you put a Russian, a serious joe, a drama queen and myself in a lift club?
Serious joe was incredibly conservative. He did not like a lot of mainstream music, which wasn’t a problem when we went in his car which didn’t have a radio or CD player *crickets*, but which kinda posed a problem when we went in my car which had both. Drama queen, being somewhat oblivious and very extraverted would hear Justin Timberlake’s ‘I’m bringin sexy back’ on the radio and turn the volume up full blast! Serious joe would look like he was having an aneurism, and I, being very aware of vibes, would feel so incredibly awkward.
Russian, on the other hand, told the most outlandish stories. He had the capacity to talk the whole hour we drove to varsity. The problem with his stories were that they just seemed like tall tales, fibs, lies, figments of his imagination – ‘My friend passed his driver’s licence with beer bottles all over the floor beneath him and no side mirrors’ or ‘I’m getting a brand new car next week’ (which never happened in the year or two he was in the lift club) or he would tell us about the ridiculously exorbitant salary he earned before studying (which didn’t seem correct when he finally dropped out of varsity and went to work at the video store).
But serious joe would repeat Russian’s stories to me as fact, and he would become extremely defensive if I cast doubt on them. The whole scenario was so strange.
Serious joe also liked to turn the heater up really hard during winter – pointed at his feet. But he got claustrophobic with the heater on, so he also wanted the windows wide open while the heater warmed his feet. I felt so annoyed, so I’d push the magic button which child locks the windows so serious joe couldn’t roll them down. He was not impressed, especially because I found it so hysterically funny!
Reason 4: Money, Money, Money – Not so Sunny
The reason why people start lift clubs is to save money, so I realised that I was faced with a big problem when I became the primary driver and saw very little cash. The biggest problem with me and money is that I don’t like to talk about it, I don’t like to ask for it, and I certainly don’t like to demand it.
I tried hinting at it for a while, but serious joe and Russian became progressively more forgetful. I started to feel like I was in a parallel universe – one where my nickname is doormat and I ‘welcome’ people to walk all over me.
Reason 5: The Exit Strategy
What do you do when you realise that you are not in a lift club anymore, that instead you are like a charity driver for people from outer space? My advice – run for your life before it sucks the life out of you!
What did I do? I took the long and painful route, but eventually I got out. I actually became good friends with drama queen and forced her to start driving beyond the safety net of her beloved shopping center parking lot. I also found another person for the lift club – this one like-minded and the owner of a reliable car! Then I used him and drama queen as my excuse for why serious joe and Russian could no longer get lifts. I’d say, “well I’m working according to accounting guy and drama queen’s schedule, sorry!” Where’s my backbone right? I really don’t know, if you find it anywhere, please send it to jellyfish over here.
Ha! If only ...
Things to Consider Before Starting a Lift Club:
In closing, I’d like to offer just two things to consider before starting a lift club:
1. Be absolutely certain you want to start a lift club.
2. Be careful who you accept into the inner circle (or in my case, the inner square with wheels) – all those hours in the car add up to what feels like an eternity.