I had a great birthday. I got brilliant presents (notably, one HTC Tattoo, one coffee maker and a pair of stripy Wellington boots for the rain). We all drank from 12 pm to 2 am as promised and I was practically falling over by the end of it.
JC is back and I am happy. We are off to Goa to bring in the New Year on Sunday. I promise to do a proper year ender post before I leave as I always do, so you won't miss that.
Oh, dudes, the point of this post, before I miss it! I nearly got scammed today! So, JC and I decide to go to High Street Phoenix (which, man, they have jazzed up since the last time I visited. It's all fancy and has its own TGIF and everything. Ultimate Margaritas, here I come!). Anyway, so because it's non-rush hour, I decide to drive and the two of us are trundling along SV Road, me moving a couple of inches each time the traffic moves, chilling, you know, the usual. THEN, this guy walks past, gives me a horrified look and says, "Your car is sparking!" Only, he walked by so fast we only heard "Your car is bwawahwah." We ignore him and move another couple of inches and then another dude comes up and goes, "Your car is sparking! It's going to catch fire! Move it to the side of the road!"
JC and I regard each other in horror. I have visions of the car blowing up along Tulsi Pipe Road, our charred bodies being pulled from the mass, then there's the vision of us running action movie style away from the flaming car. It was momentous in my brain for a bit. A rickshaw is moving towards us, I wave at him so I can move my car to the side of the road and as an afterthought ask whether the front of my car is sparking. He says no, but by this time, the dude who pointed out my car being on fire in the first place is waving us down frantically. "Turn off the car!" he yells and so we do. He says he knows a mechanic nearby, and he'll go and get him.
"Wow," I say to JC, "Good thing we noticed now, huh?" He nods. Our eyes are huge with what-could-have-beens.
The mechanic comes running along. He asks me to open the bonnet. I do and step out of the car. A kindly passer by tells me to roll up my window. This is good advice, so I do and grab my bag while I'm at it. A new phone cannot be trusted to the whims of fate.
The mechanic gestures to me. He asks me to start the car and peer at a thingy* with him. I peer dutifully. He pulls the thingy tight and shows me sparks! Actual sparks! We're all going to die sparks!
I turn to him, beseeching. "Whatever shall I do?"**
"Worry not, fair maiden," he said (paraphrasing here), "What you need is a new alternator. I'll go fetch it."
My brain at this point starts having a haaaaaaaaaaaang-on-a-moment moment. You know what I mean, right? When all sorts of little clicks and whirls happen in your mind and you're suddenly wondering what's wrong with this picture. My haaaaaaaaaaaang-on-a-moment moment was just at the mention of having to get a brand new alternator. I know not much about car thingies but I know that replacing this particular thingy would be quite expensive. Also, my parents taught me well. I said, firmly, "Fine, but get me a sealed alternator." He nodded and vanished.
"What's going on?" asked JC.
"I need a new alternator," I told him.
The mechanic reappears with a thingummy which he said was the alternator, in a plastic packet. Not sealed. "Is this new?" I asked and he was quick to reassure me. Then he shoved it into the car, asked JC and his other chap, who told me my car was on fire in the first place to rock the car back and forth. "Your connection's not good so I'm putting in my connection," he said. I translated for JC. We both looked confused. The mechanic repeated, "Your. Connection. No. Good. Replacing. With. Mine."
I tried to look intelligent.
Rocking done, he closed the lid and said, "Now drive it." We drove it. No sparks. A miracle! "Talk to my seth on the mobile phone," he said, "He'll tell you how much it costs." Two things are happening simultaneously at this point. My mind is going, "Huh. Takes longer to change a tire." and the extra pointed-out-fire-chappie is going, "I'm the seth, talk to me."
I raise my eyebrows at the mechanic. "Take me to your shop."
"But talk to him on the mobile phone! The shop's all the way back there and you'll be in traffic again."
"This guy is saying he's the seth."
Deathly looks exchanged from one dude to another. "Oh he is," says the mechanic, "Just of his own shop."
"Bring your seth here," I say.
"But talk to him on the phooooooooooooone!" Mechanic is losing his patience.
"Anyone could be anyone on a cellphone," I say to him calmly and Pointed-Out-Fire-Dude nods wisely in agreement.
We pull over and I ask the damage.
"6000," I am told.
Then I remember something my mother told me to do always. I ask to see the old alternator if he replaced it.
"It's in your car!" bleats the mechanic who will now earn "" around his name.
"Show me." I say, sternly.
He opens the hood, points out the new thingy and then says the old thingy is still lying in the car. "They'll take it out next time you service it," he says.
JC steps in, all masterful. "Show me the alternator," he says. "Mechanic" points and closes the hood again. JC re-opens it and peers inside. "Where is the old one?" "Insiiiiiiiiiide," "Mechanic" is getting quite exasperated with us.
"Take it out," I say, "I'm going to give it to my own service station."
"I tell you what," says Pointed-Out-Fire Dude, "Give me 3000 and check with your guy and then if it's not real, come back and give me the rest. I can even get you a bill."
I'm still not entirely convinced this is not for real, I mean, it's pretty elaborate, with the plants on the road and all, so I agree. He rushes off and comes back with....
... a torn piece of paper.
No, seriously. They invested so much in this scam, you'd think the least they'd do is get a proper letterhead.
The paper has an illegible stamp on one corner which he points to and says, "My address."
Underneath that, it says, "Alternater -- Rs. 6000." And a squiggle.
I laugh. I really do. I hand him back the piece of paper and tell the "mechanic" to take out his alternator. He refuses, the other guy goes, "But I got you the bill!" Then JC steps in, all masterfully again (mmmmmm) and says, "Take it out." They do and then ask for labour charges. I wave them away. They watch me go, pouting.
We were very close to being had.
This is a public service announcement for anyone who drives in this crazy city. Your car is not on fire. But somebody's pants are.
*my scientific term for anything under a car hood.
** channelling Scarlett O'Hara