Over the past two weeks a number of wild animals have made South Africans a little nervous.
There is a baboon loose in the South of Johannesburg. He’s been running around for about two weeks and he is skilfully avoiding capture. Each time animal control gets to the last place the creature was seen, they can’t find him.
And the latest news I saw this morning suggests you avoid eye contact with a baboon and apparently their teeth are longer than those of a lion.
So that is pretty scary.
And two weeks ago a pair of hyenas got loose in Kwazulu Natal. Hyenas are nothing more than oversized, scavenging, smelly dogs with powerful jaws to eat rotting carcasses. And they are funny looking.
This frightened a lot of people. And I can understand why, because hyenas are huge and eat pretty much anything. A bit like baboons.
So who can blame these wild animals from wanting to feast on the vast amount of food South Africans throw away.
They haven’t caught the baboon and it is considered dangerous. And the hyenas have since vanished – they probably lost interest in processed food and veggie off cuts.
But what really excited me about all this is that in about six to eight years there will be wonderful urban legends about a wild child that was found on the outskirts of some town, naked, filthy and unable to speak – raised by wild animals.
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.
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.
I am currently hanging out in the Free State. Farm country; and the only thing people here talk about is the price of lamb, how much rain there has been, when the next rain will come and whether or not they should spray Round Up on those invader trees down by the river. It’s fantastic fun.
The Free State is also the place where a lot of meat comes from. The perfect place for a carnivorous young woman to spend her vacation? Not really and here is why:
Just because steak can be grown in the Free State does not mean you will find good steak in the Free State. The meat is here is cheaper than in the city, because of transport costs and, a little secret, all the good steak goes to Johannesburg. And once it’s there, it’s tricky to get hold of, but always worth the effort. For obvious reasons, you can’t grow good steak in Johannesburg. It’s not a great place to raise a good piece of meat – too much noise and pollution and no room for the steak to mature. This makes places outside of Johannesburg necessary and very important for the enjoyment of steak.
It’s too bad really. The Free State has the potential to produce good steak, but it fails miserably. There isn’t that much to do, so from a very young age everyone eats a whole lot of meat, but it’s not good meat. It’s really boring, talentless meat. But because the locals don’t know any better, they spend their lives indulging in low grade beef and often relish in its toughness. So everyone goes about their daily lives without knowing what a great steak tastes like. And this makes me very sad for the average Free State dweller.
I’ve been here for just over a week now and I find myself missing steak. I dream about steak at night sometimes, I think about it during the day… All of this even though I can have as much meat as I want. It’s easy to find and requires little effort to prepare. But it’s just not the same. Once you have had good steak, you just want more of it.
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.
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.