Please note that I write this having been brought up in the thick stench of white privilege, a burden I bear with both feelings of guilt and gratitude. My childhood was littered with extra-murals, kosher lunches and drama excursions. We golfed on Sundays, had chiropractors on Mondays and thought wearing plaid shirts was a fashion statement on individualization. My two and fro was dictated by lift clubs and soccer moms riding SUV’s, Chrysler mini-vans and the coat tails of hubby’s business success. As a child I lived the South African dream, one strictly reserved for us pale-faced Reddam hoity toites whose greatest problem in life was driving from Hout Bay to Constantia in peak morning traffic. I was disillusioned from the man on the ground, but quite oblivious to it.
And while I might have grown up from my closeted view-point and Sunday corduroy chinos, I still live a life of privilege because some mustached boer with a superiority complex didn’t want to share a bench with a black chap. What a poes.
My vista from atop my golden cloud was swiftly yanked beneath my feet recently as my newly acquired sports car decided to snog the bumper of another sedan. Now if anyone has experienced vehicle damage during peak holiday season they will know that service is slower than Queen Latifah at a celery eating contest. This left me immobile and dependant on the Freddie Kruger of Caucasian nightmares: the minibus taxi.
For years I’d cursed and foul-mouthed these heretical road heathens. White people have sat around many a braai grilling rabbit fillets and discussing the lack of functional public transport of post apartheid Mzansi. The archetypal broken combi with ear shattering kwaito, 4 different rims and the vociferous mating call of “Wynberg, Wynberg” makes upmarket whitey’s shake in their imported boots. And yet here I stood, alone on Sea Point main road, clutching my cell phone with my god brother Fergus on speed dial (again please note that although timid in nature Fergus is the toughest of all Jews in my hood. Kind of like being the most rabid Maltese at the parlour).
I boarded this flying death trap with my heart tapping to the rhythm of 4am horror trance. “Goodbye cruel world, please leave my sister the Xbox”. We zooted off into yonder distance, weaving and winding through traffic, gathering dissent from white folk in BMWs at a rate of knots. I timidly reached inside my pocket and fetched a R20 note; a typical fare for such a service I presumed. R14 was handed back to me as we arrived outside my office, 5 minutes quicker than my law-abiding self had ever previously achieved. How was this possible? What devious magic had I gotten myself into?
For the next month I became intimately acquainted with the system, efficiently navigating through the throngs of fellow travellers simply on their way to work. The deluge of foreigners using taxis was enormous. I met Czechs, Germans, Swedes and even a rather handsy Austrian who kept on trying to give me a palm reading. All while engulfed in real South Africans, honest dudes, not the tyrannical cretins talked about around racist rabbit braais. This was the real South Africa that my upbringing had hidden me from? Good job private school, you cynical asshole.
So what’s my point? Well, I guess that Cape Town really is a bit of the racist enclave I have so heartily defended in the past. So many of my friends could not believe I had ventured into the grimey netherworld of low-end public transport and come out alive. Yes there are a lot of accidents (mainly on Highways) and yes safety and clinical hygiene aren’t at the forefront of the business. But I’m sick and tired of being told we have no transport system in place. Among the collage of stickers littering one vessel, read a sign that said “A Black Man is always a Suspect”, and disgustingly that still reigns true. Without any experience, blonde haired blue-eyed doe faces dismiss taxis without riding a mile in their shoes. If you want to step off your throne for a moment you’d see that becoming a real South African can start with a quick trip to Wynberg, but maybe get off before Manenberg. Because… You know… baby steps.
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