Tuesday, March 9, 2010

morning at Supa Quick

On saturday, I took a friend's car to the Supa Quick to repair a leaky tyre. The car was there at 7:30. the third one in line. The place opened at 8:00 and I waited inside with Jesse while tyre after tyre was wheeled in and worked on. I finally went in to ask the man at the desk why my car was not being seen. I heard him telling a worker to "bring in the BMW." I asked about my car and he said to remind the workers. I went back out and asked about my car. After another minute or two, the worker got into my car and drove it over to a different door and someone pulled up the BMW at the door that I was standing in front of.

I began to hear sounds of a rising argument. A woman standing across from me was shouting at the worker that had moved my car. I started to realise that the argument involved me: "It's racist. You're racist. You took that car because she's white. If I had kept quiet my car still wouldn't be seen." The worker, who was coloured, explained to her that he had moved my car in order to make room for her BMW as hers needed to be jacked up. She continued to shout at him, with rising fury that he was racist. He began to shout back that he wasn't racist and that she was making him really angry.

A manager came out and tried to calm them both down. Eventually the worker went to work on my car and someone else came to work on hers. I saw that she was still angry and fuming. I went over and said that I was sorry if that had anything to do with it and asked how long she had been waiting. She poured out a story of Supa Quick Mthatha putting the wrong tyres on her car and when she went to East London, they asked her why she had risked her life with these tyres. She had come back to Mthatha demanding that they fix their mistake. They had said they would phone her the week before and never had so when she came in on saturday she had expected to be seen first as none of this had been her fault, but theirs. And yet they had continued to keep her waiting. She said that they were taking advantage of her because she was a woman and didn't know what the right tyres were supposed to look like. They told her that she should have told them which tyres to use, to which she replied that they were the tyre experts.

We talked for a while and when her car was ready she came over to say goodbye. The manager told me that my car had only had a kinked rim which leaked air and that there was no charge. I don't understand everything that happened that morning--I don't know whether she was kept waiting because she was black or a woman or because they were incompetent. I don't know whether I had to wait because I was a woman or because they have no system at all. I don't know whether I would have waited longer had I been a young black woman. But a dull morning of waiting for a tyre repair turned into a meaningful time of understanding and the evils of the system matter less when we don't let it build up walls between us.


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