A car is for a season, the eye is for a lifetime

Sunkay, related his experience during our period of reminiscences. It is a story that I can never forget in a hurry.  “Many years ago before the coming of the expressways, nearly all the roads in the country were single carriageways with one lane running in each direction and often with no demarcation between one side and the other.

The bridges were narrow and could take only one vehicle at a time. The first vehicle to get onto the bridge would pass through while that coming from the opposite direction had to wait at the foot of the bridge on the other side until the crossing was completed before taking its turn. There weren’t many cars in those days and articulated vehicles were few and far between. A journey of about 400km could take about eight hours.

“I set out from Ibadan for Enugu at 6am on that memorable day. Just before getting to Ore, about 200km from Ibadan, the rain started to fall. To my utter dismay, my windshield wipers failed to work. After a short distance, I had to pull off the road because of poor visibility. I was at the same spot for over one hour before the rain abated and I was able to continue my journey.

“Just about a few kilometres from Benin City, one of the rear tyres burst; the car wobbled for a few seconds; I slowed down and gradually came to a stop without applying the brakes. I got out of the car to open the trunk to take out the spare tyre and jack. I almost fainted when I discovered that, not only was the car jack missing, the spare tire was flat! I spent the next one hour trying to flag down other cars to come to my rescue. Fortunately, I met a compassionate driver who loaned me his spare tyre and took me to the next village where I inflated my spare tyre and returned his.

“I looked at the time, it was about 2pm; eight hours after I set out on this journey and still had about 150km to cover. I was tired, thirsty and famished but I had to go on. The remaining stretch of road was tortuous, treacherous and dangerous at night.

I hadn’t gone more than 15km when the yellow oil pressure light on the dashboard came up. I had been warned by my auto mechanic. It meant trouble for the engine and if one didn’t stop, one stood the risk of an irreparable engine damage. I pulled over and opened the bonnet to allow the engine to cool down. Thereafter, using the oil dip-stick, I checked the engine oil level.  The dip-stick was dry meaning there was no circulating engine oil! And worse still, I had no spare oil in the trunk! Once again I became a roadside beggar.

“It took me over two hours to get a Good Samaritan to give me some oil to put in my engine. I set out for the last leg of the journey arriving in Enugu at about 9.00pm – about 10 hours after setting out from Ibadan,” Sunkay concluded ruefully.

If he expected any pity from me, I had none! He made it even worse, when I asked him when he last serviced his car. “I can’t remember,” he said, nonchalantly. “Have you ever heard about Preventive Maintenance?,” I inquired. I was alarmed when he retorted, “Why spend money unnecessarily when the car was giving no trouble?” This got me very irritated and fuming, I responded, “You deserved what you got.” I thereafter set out to educate him about Preventive maintenance.

“Preventive maintenance is a regular or routine care and servicing of a car or any equipment, in order to avoid its breakdown or malfunction.  It involves systematic inspection, detection and correction of incipient failures, either before they occur or before they develop into major defects. It often follows planned guidelines from time-to-time to prevent equipment and machinery breakdown.

“If he could be so carefree with his car, he could well be with his life, so I asked him a seemingly simple question. “When last did you have an eye examination?” I enquired. “My eyes are fine, I see things far away that my colleagues cannot see. I can thread a needle without much effort and read the smallest prints without glasses.”

I shook my head in utter disbelief. “Sunkay, despite all my effort in explaining the concept of Preventive Maintenance for your car, you cannot appreciate that it relates to your eyes – your whole body as well!” I said and followed with a very nasty statement just to drive the point home.

“When you can no longer see things far away; you can neither thread a needle nor read large prints, even with glasses, you will come running to your ophthalmologist. Do you know what he would tell you? He will say, “Sorry, Chief Sunkay, it’s too late. I can’t help you.”

Remember, a car is for a season, your eyes are for a lifetime, only systematic inspection, early detection and correction of incipient problems either before they occur or before they cause blindness can ensure that you keep your sight until the very end. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.