Having been tagged by the country’s number one cyber-patriot, the ever-entertaining but often-misunderstood Daft Oi to post up entry No.24 in Nizam Bashir’s 50 Posts to Independence project, I have decided to allow Shannon Teoh, a journalist from NST and part-time contributor to this site, to tell his rather interesting tale of two cars. Coincidentally, his first two cars were the same as mine. Full story after the jump!

Number 24

I remember my first car. Well, it wasn’t my car. It was my dad’s. But then Papa had gotten himself a Merc, so the 1988 1.3l Nissan Sunny was for the most part, all mine. Except that I didn’t really have to take care of it since it wasn’t actually mine. I just drove it, put in some petrol – basically, that only happened when I was using it and it was empty, if not I just conveniently hoped someone else would do it. What, like you didn’t do the same? – and hoped I didn’t crash it.

Well, hope is never enough is it? By the time I was fully responsible for the car – well, at least its petrol tank since I was taking it to campus with me – I was already a bit of a maniac on the road, driving just inside the limits of the car.

As it happens, driving down Jalan Gasing in Petaling Jaya one day, a florist van going in the other direction decides to take a U-turn – meaning upon completion of his insane manoeuvre, he’d be going in the same direction as me – right in front of me without looking. He didn’t complete his U-turn but instead completed several flips and my Nissan Sunny never completed another trip. That was the last time anyone drove it. And the florist’s insurer only gave us RM3,000 for it. The front of the car was completely smashed in and in fact, had crumpled to just outside the passenger cell. Meaning, I could get out of the car fine, after forcing the door open, but basically, there wasn’t much of a car in front of where my feet were.

As I was about to start my life as a fulltime journalist soon, I needed a new set of wheels and for a bachelor with a bit of a taste for wheels, a 1.3l Proton Satria was a fun but economical choice. Of course, it wasn’t long before i nicked a bit of the bumper on my car. There was hardly any contact with the car in front of me, ironically, a Nissan Sentra which escaped scott-free but I did have a visible indentation on mine. This was the first time the ol’ ‘Proton Tin Can’ thing struck me.

Imagine if I had been driving the Satria instead of the Sunny when I exuberantly said hello to Flower-boy. I’d probably be writing this from a wheelchair now. Not only is the Satria more attuned to origami, I would also have been going faster in it.

That really sums up being Malaysian for me. The difference between a Satria and a Sunny. The Satria is a newer, flashier, funner car. It may not be much more luxurious than the Sunny, but it is still with me now and I still enjoy driving it.

In the same way, I enjoy this country. It’s fun being in a multi-cultural society. At the same time, this country is also flashy, with its Twin Towers, Putrajaya, etc.

But when an emergency happens, you sometimes wish you were Japanese. The Sunny possibly saved my legs, if not my life. Japan’s gone through earthquakes, terrorist cults, Hiroshima, but they’ve always come out of it stronger – albeit, stranger as well.

We’ve had the tsunami, the floods in Johor, but none of it seems to have been handled especially well. Remember the idiots who video-d the waves in Penang? Once again, fun over function.

Sometimes, I wish we could be as tough, as efficient as the Sunny, not just fun like the Satria – which admittedly, is Japanese as well, since it’s a Mitsubishi Colt. But for the sake of this analogy, Proton copied the Colt, not the Sunny, so there.

Curiously, now there’s a Satria Neo, but there was also a Sunny Neo. The Sunny Neo was basically a Pulsar/Sentra that was marketed in Thailand whilst the Satria Neo is basically the replacement model for the Satria

I’d say the improvements made by the Satria Neo is far more significant since the Sunny Neo is just a name invented by some marketing hacks. So, this is cause for optimism, isn’t it? The Neo has a stronger body and with the CamPro engine and better handling, it both retains its fun drive but adds on safety as well. But the high seats and low roof makes it tough for taller people to drive it.

This sort of fundamental flaw is what deeply frustrates many Malaysians today. That we can come up with good ideas but somehow, somewhere, our incompetence shows up.

Maybe it’s because only half of us are trying to make things better. Only half actually believe in this country.

And frankly, after 50 years, aren’t we tired of saying “it’s better than nothing”?

And so, the next in line, is Suanie. Tag, you’re it.