Conversations with strangers are much like a refreshing cup of coffee. We so gladly and willingly confide our darkest secrets to strangers without the slightest of suspicions. The stranger, on the other hand, needs neither formal approach nor qualification in analysing our experiences and at times our fears. I remember confiding in a stranger on more than one occasion without having to think twice about it.
South Africa’s favourite mode of transport, for those of us who do not get by from month to month on overdraft and credit facilities, is the taxi or minibus as some would call it. I never really appreciated the prospect of being packed like a can of sardines into a taxi that’s certified to carry fifteen passengers but takes eighteen or nineteen passengers. All of this, mind you, is done to accommodate the long queues and scores of us trying to get home or to our jobs. An appalling attempt at giving us a false sense of security if you ask me; who says the spirit of Ubuntu does not prevail?
A friend of mine attended a course in Cape Town and offered me the use of his vehicle while he was away. You can imagine my excitement at the prospect of avoiding being jammed into a taxi with ear-drum-splitting music pounding in the background. The thoughts of open road filled my imagination!
My excitement and wild imaginations were short-lived. I was late for work on the first day I drove to work due to heavy traffic which I had not made provision for. The drive to and from work was also not as exciting as I had anticipated. The looks on the other drivers' faces were far from friendly - almost every one of them was irritated and trying to get wherever it is they were going. Maybe it was the heat. On the fourth day of the week I felt strangely lonely. This was a loneliness stemmed by the need to associate, a need to belong. The more I dug deeper into the cause of this hollow feeling within, the more I realisedhow comforting riding in a taxi actually was.
South Africans are a very sociable people. You’ll climb into a taxi and you will be fortunate to ride with a man of the cloth, a young accountant who’s doing her articles eager to prove herself, and a nurse who has had a rough night-shift at the hospital. This is one of infinite combinations of passengers and your imagination is allowed to stretch itself. As a cherry on top, your chauffeur’s constant move is in and out of the fast and emergency lanes. Allow me to add that the ‘emergency’ in this case is the shortening of the queue back at the taxi rank. As the journey proceeds, (and visions of death flash), the man of the cloth is more than likely to offer spiritual guidance and a way to redemption in this forsaken place called Earth. The young accountant will probably complement the forsaken state of the Earth by offering advice on how to evade income tax, while the nurse will tell you where to get off for trying to flirt with her.
How sad. The opportunity to exploit so much potential, advice for free and a possible date go begging. I have to disembark for my stop is around the corner.