An Alternator Motive


I live in suburban Sydney, and while on the surface it looks a lot like most middle-class suburbs, what's unseen is the village system we operate in, governed largely by older generations of immigrant Greeks.

I love this system and I hate it. Recently I was reminded of this conundrum when the alternator on Sophia (my 1971 Mercedes-Benz 230) stopped powering most of the electrics. Instead of booking it into an auto electrician who specialises in this kinda fix, the village stepped in.

On my father's call, an old family friend, well into his 80's and a retired truck driver and mechanic, wanted to fix Sophia's alternator to get me back on the road. I love the village's ability to step in a sort stuff out without any formalities (or cost). He stood out in the summer heat for 8 hours over the bonnet trying to diagnose her electrical issues.

I also hate the village because it always firmly puts me in my place as the 'woman' who knows nothing and is not required to know what the men are doing. With that, he actually replaced the existing, original unrestored alternator with a lessor version from a wrecker... only making the problem worse (!!). All the while yelling at me whenever I asked what he was doing to my car.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not bitter. I was raised amongst this and managed to survive it so much so that now in my thirties I really couldn't care less about what others think of me. It's actually harmless and in my case, fuelled a passion to define a life uniquely mine and not based on others expectations. That said, I also got a kick out of pissing him off by riding a motorcycle around the block just to watch him shake his head at me in disappointment.

The reality is that these men, while sexist, are a dying breed of people who understand the currency of relationships, they know how to help, bartering skills to help each other out. It's a refreshing change from a litigious, bureaucratised lifestyle of most of our lives now, where we don't know our neighbours or know how to help without expecting anything in return. While the whole man/woman divide is slowly dying out, I'm not so thrilled about the loss of the village system.

Heleana is a force of nature. The founder of In Venus Veritas and The Petrolette, and a co-founder of Rising Sun Workshop. Heleana shares her love of vintage cars, riding motorcycles, and (not-so-secretly) dreams of flying planes and piloting a riva aquariva (a la Sophia Loren) very fast through the canals of Venice. Supportive and connected, community is her lifeblood, and she is as real as they come.