Keep the change

Fresh on the heels of the weeing on bougainvillea saga, here’s some more Popular Mechanics Top Tip Letters Page brilliance from Al de Bruyn:

Keep the change
Finding change for car guards at short notice can be a pain. To solve the problem, I store a few coins in my car’s ashtray, pressing them edge-on into a blob of Prestik to stop them sliding around.

This. Is. Genius.

It’s a problem we all have. You park your vehicle, give the car guard a nod and a wave – maybe even ask his name if you have time, but try to avoid getting into a deep conversation about the continuing political ambitions of Joseph Kabila – and head off to your meeting/football match/dinner.
Upon your return, a couple of hours later… erm… was it Charles?… well, whatever – the car guard is still there. And he’s awake. Amazingly, your car seems to still be exactly where you left it as well.
Who could have predicted this scenario, save for everyone, ever?
Surely some sort of reward is due for security services rendered? But you have no change at short notice.

What now?

The first place that every single South African driver looks is in their ashtray, for the simple reason that that’s where every single South African driver keeps their change. Even smokers keep their change in their car ashtray, because they use the roads for their ash and cigarette butts. Al de Bruyn’s masterplan gives us nothing innovative or helpful here.

But then, as you get into your car, lock your doors and glance nervously around to see if… erm… was it Alfred?… well, whatever – is hanging around looking for some payment from you: disaster strikes.


You fumble; dazed and confused by the plethora of assorted metal discs that lies before you. Panic is setting in – you’ve been in your vehicle for almost seven seconds now and… erm… was it William?… well, whatever – wants some money.


Actually, you’re going to relax, chill out, smile through your window at… erm… was it Douglas?… well, whatever – and glance down at your ashtray, in which there are 6 coins of varying denominations, stacked, in order of value – edge on, nogal – in a piece of Prestik.
How long have you been parked there? How dodgy is the area? How is the weather? Did… erm… I think it was William, actually, wasn’t it?… well, whatever – remember you? These are the questions you will be asking yourself as you reach towards the carefully ordered small change, all so very perfectly aligned in your ashtray. Al’s method means that once you have decided how much you wish to pay your car guard, some rudimentary mental arithmetic is all that will be needed to select the appropriate coinage required to make up the requisite sum.

I like Al’s idea. My evenings out and about in Cape Town are regularly spoiled by the spectre of having to find change for parking guards at short notice. It occupies my mind from the moment I park my car, preventing me from conversing with my friends over dinner or analysing the football over a beer at Fireman’s. Yes – Zuma does face many challenges in the run up to Mangaung, but do I have a R5 coin for the car guard? Indeed, that was an incredible cross-field ball from David Silva, but I’m going to look properly tight if I can’t find more than 50c in my car ashtray.

And may I suggest some degree of future-proofing for Al’s Bruyny plan? (see what I did there?)
With inflation constantly inflating, it won’t be long before every informal roadside transaction (careful now) is carried out with notes, rather than coins. For this reason, you should maybe keep some notes in your car ashtray BUT – use a paperclip to stop them from sliding around.

That little gem for the future is on its way to Popular Mechanics right now and it’s going to win me a Jigsaw Sawing Station Combo Kit from Bosch.


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