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DECEMBER, 13, 2011

It was extraordinary. I’ve never had so many looks from the diners gathered on the pavements of Parkhurst; not even in 2005 when a cyclist crashed into the back of my black Fiat Stilo — MARMITE GP (don’t ask) — at the traffic circle at 4th avenue and 10th street, causing several grand’s worth of damage and leaving a nose print on my rear windscreen. If I’d cartwheeled down the street in a clown suit I doubt I’d have attracted much more in the way of interest from the people at Espresso who were otherwise engrossed in their tapas platters and their fascinating conversations.

It wasn’t anything to do with me, of course. It was the car I was driving. Here’s the thing about driving a flashy, uber-desirable new vehicle in a car-obsessed city like Joburg: it’s bloody fantastic. I won’t pretend otherwise; being in a beautiful car makes you feel infinitely better about yourself. That brief sashay in the Evoque up and down 4th avenue was the best couple of minutes I’ve enjoyed during the past three years, by far. “I’ll come along for a ride any time,” my mother grinned from the passenger seat. “I feel like the Queen.”

In a city in which people draw a fairly direct correlation between the car you drive and your social status, my standing in the world has skyrocketed. So I find myself in the middle of a fascinating social experiment. Will others treat me differently because I now drive a really nice car? Will I get hit on more (something one of my followers on Twitter asked me)? Will I feel better about myself, and project that to others even when they have no idea of the key nestled in the depths of my handbag?

The car I drove down 4th avenue looks a lot like this one

I love this car, as much as one can love a thing that cannot love you back, and in that I am a typical Joburger.

“In this city, we love cars to distraction. Our cars are a projection of ourselves, metal and rubber externalisations of our inner fleshly desires,” I wrote in Sunday Times‘s Lifestyle a couple of months ago. All my life I have harboured more of an interest in cars than most girls, but I’ve never felt anything like this.

This is as good as it gets.

I’ll be honest. It’s not done to love material things when one is more cerebral than celebrity — but when I sensed the admiration as I glided down one of the very few roads in this city where it is possible to drive in full view of diners sitting on pavements inhaling exhaust fumes, it felt immensely satisfying. In fact, I plan to tour all of Joburg’s poser spots, especially the ones south of the shooter curtain, and try out the Park Assist function, which allows the car to parallel park itself — something I’d normally never risk in front of an audience.

I’ve spent my entire life being totally uncool and that 4th avenue expedition offered a glimpse of the nirvana where all the popular kids hang out. While I am sure I could get used to this over the coming year, I hope I don’t.
It feels far too good to take it for granted.   

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