Some people, more so men are obsessed with road machines. They know the makes, models, sounds, and the pros and cons of each. As far as I am concerned, a car is at most a functional and convenient means to move around and accomplish errands fast. If it is clean, I am happy to sit behind the wheel.
But one of my brothers takes the crown for his in-depth love and understanding of motor vehicles. I can drive a car for weeks and not notice anything amiss with its sound or movement. If you sit with him in the same car, within minutes, he pricks his ears and shushes you. “Do you hear that?” He asks, turning aside, hunching forward to listen better. “What? Where?” You ask, assuming that he heard whistles and is cautious of a demonstration around the corner. “That sound…” he switches off the radio, steps on the speedometer, “Hear that? The sound from the engine.” I strain and strain but all I hear is the usual drawl. Other times, he will say, “see that?” as he points and reminds you that the car needs wheel balancing, or new shocks and springs. What gets his goat is seeing what he calls an abused car.
The other day, at an event, a noisy car pulled up, coughed, choked, sighed, and stalled once it dropped the guests close to where we sat. “That car is not that old to behave that way.” I commented, reading its plates. Some of the people we were with attributed the behaviour of the car to its make and model, but someone who knows the owner of the car said, “No, that mzee mistreats his cars just as he does his wife. Even if you gave him a spaceship, it would stall under his hands.” A delightful conversation took root when a woman commented, “By the way, if you want to know how a man treats his wife, look at how he treats his car.”
Does he neglect his car? Is it a shabby, maltreated, or well-kept car? That is how he will treat you. “What if he has no car?” A younger woman asked, looking at her fiancée across the table. “Check how he treats his laptop.” My mind went back to the office and all the dusty, scratched, and mishandled laptops I have seen blokes swing over their shoulders. I seriously judged Kim and pitied his wife. His computer is the butt of our office jokes. That machine has survived by the grace of the machine divinity. Once, I took a tissue and wiped off what looked like a spider web and breadcrumbs off the screen and keyboard. I would not be surprised if a whole family of a spider has sired and reared babies who are now turning into teenagers, inside it. While this was a healthy and insightful debate, I would not advocate that you judge a man’s character from how he handles his gadgets. We all know men who adore their cars but are horrible towards their wives. We also know men who do not bother much with their cars but treat their wives honourably.
“It is all about what you value.” An elderly gentleman said and continued, “If I value my car or laptop, I will treat it right.” I asked him then if one is reflective of the other. “Not at all. Some of the cruellest men I know treat their cars way better than they treat their wives.” So, how would one best judge a man’s character?
“Look at how he treats women, generally.” The gentleman said. “Consider his views about women, in general.” There are men who have strict rules of how a woman should or should not behave but will consider it normal for a man to be immoral. Such men will excuse bad behaviour with flippant excuses like, “Oh, it is the nature of men.”
When I hear of a man who has a sexual affair with a junior colleague or his domestic worker, I know that man is bad news. Most of these affairs are pure sexual harassment and assault that the junior employee or house assistant is too intimidated to report as criminal. Before we run to judge a man by the state of his car, let us watch, observe, and listen to his views about women. How do we judge a woman’s character?
Karimi is a wife and mother who believes marriage is worth it.