Drive

While I was driving to work this morning some bigwig from some traffic-related department was informing the entire audience (estimated at three, as there are about that many people in Johannesburg right now) about how the Christmas road safety campaign was coming to an end. This will be followed by the Easter campaign in which punishment for reckless or drunk driving will be escalated significantly. If you get caught, there is a chance your licence will be taken away from you and you will have to start the process from scratch – learner’s permit through to the test.

I think this is an excellent idea. There are too many men out there with small penises who drive badly to compensate. And there are just as many sexually frustrated women doing stupid things. I don’t know if there is a relationship between the two, but hey, who knows?

(Image from meamscifi on Flickr)

But it also poses a serious problem. While passing your learner’s licence is relatively easy, getting the actual licence is a bit like going into Mordor.

The first challenge is reversing out of a parking. Anyone who has been driving for longer than six months will lose the ability of finding his or her own way out of a parking bay. This is because there is always a car guard around when you leave. And there is no avoiding them and their enthusiasm in showing you how to manoeuvre out of the space.

Another issue would be negotiating potholes. Over the past three years or so, most of the roads around South Africa have started to resemble the surface of the moon (if you can imagine a tar-coloured moon). If anyone can tell me what the correct procedure is for getting around or over a pothole when you’re doing a driving test I will make you a sandwich.

And these are minor…
(Image from SweetDaddyP on Flickr)

78% of licensed drivers do not know how to use their indicators. Apparently you need a degree in physics to flick a lever up or down. So, statistically only about 0.005% of people who have to redo their licence will be able to pass.

Therefore I would like to appeal to everyone to drive carefully. Lives will be saved, and even if you’re just a total jerk who doesn’t care, the administrative nightmare of getting a new licence is just not worth it.

Drive

I’m a Toyota person now

I have joined the ranks of Toyota drivers… Yes, we are the ones who like practical and reliable cars that will probably outlive us.

My Toyota it a T3 Yaris. And while I don’t like the gearbox very much and I think they shouldn’t even have bothered with the boot, it’s a really good car. Yaris Logo

The first thing that came to mind when I drove it was functional. But it was comfortable and it felt natural to drive, so I bought it.

And the inside is not entirely unpleasant

Then came the week of buyer’s remorse. It’s a lot of money to spend on one thing. Then came three days of paranoia that the dealer would run off with my money. Then the car arrived.

And it grows on me daily. It’s a bastard in traffic, but everywhere else, it’s a delight. And it’s a good looking car. And a definite upgrade from a completely basic little Opel Corsa. As much as I love Molly and always will, I finally have a grown up car. It will probably be good for me too – I won’t be tempted to drive like a teenager anymore, because, to be honest, the Yaris doesn’t stir those feelings in me. Instead it makes me feel more mature and sensible. And I feel a bit less out of place driving through affluent areas now.

It’s not a bad looking car either. I was looking at it, with the pearly rain drops on it this morning, and I thought, hey, that is a nice looking vehicle. Then I gave myself another mental pat on the back while I admired it a bit more. Good job Lee. And now there is less than 0 doubt that I got the right car.

Yaris
Nothing like blurry backgrounds to set off that colour.

I look forward to my drive home, in my sensible car. I will feel mature. I will appreciate the reliability and functionality.

Yup – Toyota has changed my life a little. I’m one of those people now.

I’m a Toyota person now

Intersections

Driving in Johannesburg… There’s a lot to be said about it and a lot is said about it. Besides the weather, it’s very likely you will find this topic on the menu in any conversation serving small talk.

If you have had an incident with a taxi, if you have seen a taxi driving badly, if you have been stuck in traffic or if you have been within 100m of a pot hole, you should be safe if you’re having a conversation with a stranger.

But what about hitting intersections when the light is red? And in Johannesburg, the hawkers and beggars that have claimed ever intersection that sees more than three cars an hour. The market is saturated and they are getting creative.Driving

Like the old guy that leaned against my window and asked me if I remember him. I ignored him. He said it was when I was on holiday in America. When I told him I had never been there he said it must have been London. I haven’t been there either. But nice try.

This is where my habit of pulling up two metres before the line at an intersection comes in handy. I can just edge forward away from the annoyance. They usually take a hint.

Then there is the guy that sells cell phone chargers. I admire his persistence. Not many people are driving at 7am on a Saturday morning. Those of us that are tend to be cheerful because we’re on our way somewhere cool – so Charger Guy cashes in on this.

He greets me as the most beautiful woman he has ever seen at that robot (which is sweet actually – because I haven’t brushed my hair and I’m in scruffy riding gear). If I have R50 I can have a charger. R20 when I tell him I only have small change.

And by this time the guy selling the cokes and the sun glasses has noticed that I have made eye contact and is coming over. He doesn’t think I’m the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen, but he does think I’m thirsty.

Thank god the lights turn green.Traffic light

Intersections

A Weekend in ‘The States’

The Free State is a very special place. It’s always pretty and the air is fresh. Just because I don’t live there anymore doesn’t mean I don’t still think of it as home. And things happen there that just aren’t possible anywhere else. And a lot of unusual things can happen in just a few days.

For example, I went to the bank. This could happen anywhere in the world. But only in a small Free State town do they let you take out your phone and use it. While waiting in line, I checked and responded to my e-mails, then I logged on to Facebook and spent about five minutes doing pointless social networking and no one stopped me. In fact, most people were doing the same thing to pass time. Some guy even called two of his friends to arrange a braai for that evening.

This is why they should provide reading material in banks. Braai could be code for “there’s an old lady with 10k leaving now, mug her” or “the security guard is outside smoking, bring in the guns”. But besides the obvious security risks, waiting in line is boring. So to all bank managers out there – buy some magazines. To the bank managers in the Free State, there are magazines besides Farmers Weekly and the Afrikaans version.

And just like that, the world will be a happier place. Women can learn how to cook awesome meals and men can learn sex tips. Or women can read about the specs on a VW Golf and men can catch up on the latest fashion. The point is, banking could also become a learning experience and men and women would have more to talk about and more to do. Aggression and frustration levels will go down because we’ll all agitate less waiting to make a deposit. Once this catches on, we’ll talk about seating. Seriously, I already have a flawless system in place.

Also, in Bethlehem, they still have parking meters and I always forget to drop a coin in. I was sitting in my car, writing out a shopping list, when a traffic official walked by. He stopped at my meter and looked at the flashing screen. He then looked up and saw me sitting in my car, gave me a smile and waved. He then continued on his leisurely stroll, looking a meters and not writing out tickets. I drove past him again later in the morning, he was still just being a nice guy and I got another wave.

Of course, not all encounters with traffic officers are pleasant in the Free State. I was pulled over once and the cop wouldn’t return my licence to me until I agreed to have dinner with him. And I’m often asked if I’m transporting drugs. My best friend has been chased by the police because they thought she was a dealer (Yvette, I keep telling you, short girls in big cars arouse suspicion – but don’t sell the Hilux, it’s just too convenient).

And in the Free State you can sometimes just get really lucky. Really randomly lucky. On my return to civilisation I had some car trouble. The battery light came on, making me panic, so I stopped at the nearest garage in a one horse town 10km down the road. I asked the petrol attendant to have a look at my engine, because men just know these things.

He suggested my alternator was broken which made my heart stop. Then he looked around a little bit more and told me that I no longer had a fanbelt.

It was a public holiday. I had work the next day. I anticipated a crisis.

But no, around the corner was a shop that sold spares. And fresh milk in coke bottles. But more importantly, brand new fanbelts on a public holiday. So I returned to my car and asked my new friend, Joseph, if he could fix it. He said no, he didn’t have tools, but he got straight on to his phone and called Lucky who was there in ten minutes. Another ten minutes later and I was on my way back to the city. The whole thing cost me R50.

The Free State is lovely. In small doses. The food is good and it’s quiet even if nothing really exciting ever happens there, it’s a great place to get away from it all and it is entertaining. And there are men called Joseph who will help you out simply because they can.

Check it out some time. But take a book. Unless you like walking or heavy drinking you may find yourself at a loose end.

A Weekend in ‘The States’

Everyone has Something to Say About Taxis

Everyone that drives in Johannesburg has something to say about taxis. Granted, there are many things to remark on and the general consensus is that we hate them.

But this morning I started thinking about what it must be like to be a taxi driver.

Firstly, you need to be irrationally fearless. It has to take guts to drive a vehicle held together by chewing gum and masking tape down a highway, even if the top speed is only 75km/h. And there must be bravery involved in never using your indicator and braking suddenly. I hate braking suddenly; I’m always worried some BMW X5 goes up my car’s ass, forcing her nose into the back of the truck in front of me. These are not happy moments and my brakes work a lot better than those on a taxi.

And what about the fact that everyone around you hates you? It can’t be fun to have strangers, who don’t even know your name, swear at you from the moment you start work until you knock off. The only people you interact with are your passengers, and they only do this because they are dependent on you to get them around. This can’t do much for your self-esteem.

South Africa Taxi
And there is no aircon either

Then comes job satisfaction. I imagine taxi bosses that look like Jabba the Hutt and probably behave in much the same way. Room for growth is limited to a change in route and if you don’t make your target you are likely to lose a testicle. There is only one perk of the job, hawkers don’t harass you to buy sunglasses when you clearly have a pair already and no one asks you for money at an intersection, but if you’re any good at what you do, you’ve jumped the light.

If you really think about it, it’s a really dangerous job and there are no benefits. These guys transport a huge chunk of the South African population, and I don’t know if many people thank them. I think they work under a lot of pressure and do okay considering the conditions they find themselves in. They drive the way they do because they are frightened half to death and probably haven’t had a hug in ages.

I’m not going to go around hugging taxi drivers and I’m still going to stay as far away from them as possible. But they are people, and if you really think about it, their lives really suck.

Everyone has Something to Say About Taxis