Life is hard for a Jozi car. Parking spaces are small here. Street lanes are narrow and sometimes unpaved. Potholes are ubiquitous. Road rage rules. Cars share the road with minibus taxis – mighty behemoths with inconsiderate drivers, which hem cars in from all sides. Jozi summers bring heavy rain and hail; winters bring dust and pollution.

Fortunately Jozi has the Car Spa, a sparkling oasis for downtrodden cars (and their owners).

The Car Spa.

You might be asking yourself why I would write about the Car Spa. I don’t own a car. I occasionally drive Rent-a-Wrecks, but Rent-a-Wrecks aren’t worthy of the Car Spa. (Sorry, Super Wreck. But it’s true.) So let me explain.

Several weeks ago, a generous friend offered to lend me her car – a sturdy, metallic-blue Volvo sedan, which I call Super Volvo – while she traveled out of the country. I graciously accepted. What an incredible stroke of luck!

There was only one drawback. Super Volvo is quite large, and the Lucky 5 Star garage is quite small.

Super Volvo in the Lucky 5 Star garage. In addition to being narrow, the garage has an odd curvature to it. Super Volvo is longer and wider than it appears.

Pulling Super Volvo in and out of the Lucky 5 Star garage requires concentration and skill. You must clear your mind of distractions. You must turn the radio off and think carefully about the movement of the steering wheel. Above all, you must move slowly and deliberately. If you get halfway out and things don’t feel right, it’s best to pull back in and start again.

I’ve learned all of this over the last few weeks, and I’ve finally developed the skills required to successfully maneuver Super Volvo in and out of the garage. But I suffered some setbacks along the way.

This is what happens if you don’t concentrate when backing Super Volvo out of the garage. I know that by showing this photo I am probably ensuring that no one will ever lend me a car again. 

I scratched Super Volvo. Twice. My generous friend is very understanding and told me not to worry about it, but she hasn’t seen the scratches. (Until now, that is.) There is no way I would give Super Volvo back to her without repairing it.

Back home in America, I would probably have taken Super Volvo to a cramped, dingy autobody shop, managed by a greasy, lecherous man who calls his female customers “Honey” while robbing them blind and keeping their cars for days on end. But things are different here. A friend told me about the Car Spa. I was suspicious because it sounded expensive, but decided to give it a try.

After the first scratching incident, I drove Super Volvo to the Car Spa and pulled into the bay marked “Free Quotes”. It was there that I met Steve.

Steve greeted me politely and examined the scratch. I held my breath. He gave me the quote, and I exhaled. That’s it? I thought. It was much less than the cost of an average car insurance deductible in the United States. “How long will it take?” I asked Steve. I held my breath again. “One day,” he told me.

Wow.

I brought Super Volvo back two days later, expecting to wait in the Car Spa customer lounge. I figured it wouldn’t be a bad way to spend the day; the lounge offers free wireless internet (which actually works) and an espresso bar.

Freshly made (and free) hot chocolate at the Car Spa customer lounge.

Steve did me one better. He arranged for a driver to shuttle me home, then come back to fetch me when the car was ready.

Joe, one of the Car Spa’s friendly drivers, waves goodbye after dropping me at home.

I dropped the car off at 8:00 and the job was finished by 3:00. The Car Spa staff did more than fix the scratch, too. They also cleaned Super Volvo inside and out, shined up the wheels, etc. Super Volvo felt so pampered.

Here are some before and after shots.

Before. Pretty bad, right?

After.

I bade Steve a warm farewell as I got into Super Volvo.

“I hope to see you again soon, but only for a wash, not for scatches,” Steve said. I laughed gaily and drove off.

Three days later I was back, with a nearly identical scratch on the other side of the car. A suspicious-looking man had been loitering by the Lucky 5 Star as I arrived home that morning, and I tried to pull in a bit too fast. Not enough concentration.

When I first heard that dreadful screech as Super Volvo met the edge of the garage wall (again), I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. I fled into the house and beseeched the car gods, “Why me? Why me?!”

Then I thought of Steve and the Car Spa. My mood lightened.

Steve, my knight in shining armor.

I went back two mornings later and followed the same drill. Scratch #2 was fixed before lunch.

I’ve learned my lesson this time, I swear. I love you, Car Spa. Super Volvo loves you too. But we both hope not to see you again for a while.

The Car Spa, located at 49 Rivonia Road in Sandhurst, offers a range of pampering and repair services for cars.

Note: I received a discount on the second scratch repair because I told Steve I would be writing this blog post. But my praise is well deserved, with or without the discount. The Car Spa is really that awesome.

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