Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Wheelin' and dealin'

Before leaving DC back in September I was busy making last minute preparations to pack up the house and figure out a way to somehow get our car on the slowest boat from Baltimore to Accra. A bit of procrastination is sometimes a good thing. In the case of the car, the extra time allowed me to get a tune-up and new tires, and pick up a few sundry filters that I now get to figure out how/when to install.

The tire purchase, at the time, seemed like a bit of reaction to an over anxious imagination producing thoughts of being stranded whoknowswhere at midnight with two flat tires and just one donut spare. Furthermore, I just assumed that proper tires would be difficult to find in Africa. Not necessarily the case it would seem. I once missed a movie start time because my spare donut was flat afterall. Rough life we live in the big city...

So anyway, the car arrived in Accra three months later with four shiny new tires. The old tires were shipped ahead, and were stacked and waiting in the garage ever since for something bad to happen. Actually, I intended to have the old tires installed on rims for use as spares.

Today I finally got around to checking TIRES off the to-do list. I mentioned to Patience that I was headed out to the grocery store and on a few other errands as I was rolling a tire out the front door. She stopped me to ask what was wrong with the tire. Before I could finish explaining, she was on the phone with her husband arranging to meet me and make sure I didn't get bamboozled by the tire vendors. I could not think of a polite way to say, "thanks, but I prefer to go alone and get bamboozled out of a buck or two, rather than wait." Just find the nearest guy selling a rim and be done with it.

A while later, Derrick and I were making our way accross town to the spare auto parts market between Kwame Nkrumah Circle and Kaneshie Market. He didn't believe me when I explained that SJD and I had walked through the market for fun.

Luckily the tires and rims are located on the road side. I thought surely we could just pull over, point to what we needed, and be on our way home in five minutes. Not so fast rookie.

Derrick kindly reminded me of my whiteness and that I should just stay in the car to avoid being overcharged. He directed me to pull into the gas station a block away. After explaining to the attendants the situation, he and two others were off to the market on a rim hunt. Thirty minutes passed until the three reappeared with a 5 bolt x 16" steel rim - perfect for a spare. We jacked up the front end to remove my wheel to test the fit. Wrong bolt pattern. Back they went.

The second attempt produced a 5 bolt x 15" rim with several dents. Nice try. At this point I realized that I'd better inform Derrick just how much I was willing to spend. He managed to negotiate the price down to every cedi in my pocket.

Now an hour into the search, they returned a third time with a perfect match. We popped on the tire in no time. Derrick paid and tipped the other guys a few thousand cedis and high tailed it back across town beating traffic.

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