Random Rants, Raves and Ramblings

Any sufficiently advanced technology

Our family car is that VW model whose design would later become known as the “Citi Golf”. The way this immensely popular car came about was this: when VW ceased production of this model in Europe in 1988 and the tooling was well written off, the assembly plant was shipped out to a pleasant second youth in the Eastern Cape. The last Citi Golf rolled off the production line in 2009. Ours is still of the original German manufacture. It is vivacious. It is sprightly. It has a spring in its step. I mean, it is really elderly.
My daughters’ only hands-on experience with cars in Rwanda had been the antiquated bakkie that Louise’s boss left in her brother’s care upon his retirement and whose tailgate had been welded shut after the locks were deemed worn beyond reasonable repair, some 20 years prior. So this morning after shopping for groceries I found our eldest posted behind the Golf, staring expectantly at the hatch.
“Go ahead” I said, “it’s unlocked”.
Barely moving a muscle, she now contrived to radiate complete helplessness.
“Just push on it.”
Cautiously she approached the hatch and with her index finger started industriously prodding a point some two centimetres above the button.
“The bit that moves is just underneath.”
Her finger found the button, which she kept holding fully depressed, awaiting further instruction.
“You can let go of that now. Just pull the hatch up.”
She reached all the way down and proceeded to worm her fingers between the rusty metalwork and the bumper. Finally, laboriously, the hatch creaked open.
“It’s easier if you use the handle” I said, pointing at the ridge into which the button was set.
With one inimitable hand wave and an exasperated stare she made it perfectly clear that it was entirely the car’s fault that its operation should be so arcane and that it was clearly not designed to be used by normal human beings.
There is a point to all this but I forgot what it was. But this minor culture shock did bring home to me what a scary and confusing place the world must be for people who have never had someone show them how gears turn, how wires make a circuit and how simple behaviours turn into complicated ones when you make them happen together. People whose idea of education is learning to pray and to stop at either fear or wondering, but always short of understanding.

As my daughter carries the groceries inside, I slam the hatch shut and cry for Africa.

Friday 27 July 2012