Taxi ride to success

2008-04-04 00:00

I have to admit it pains me to see the bad PR taxi drivers are getting. No, I am not about to condone the public ripping of a skirt, but I have found myself at their mercy lately.

I rely on them to get me to work in the shortest possible time, and sometimes they cut in half the time it would take me to inch through traffic in a private ride.

Recently, when I was already an hour late, I arrived at the taxi rank and I was pleased to find an intrinsically motivated driver. As we pulled out of the rank (grumpy as we had

had to stand in a queue for 30 minutes) our driver went straight over the barrier lane and disregarded a red traffic light.

He whizzed through the Johannesburg traffic in his red Hi-Ace with the bravado of an experienced stunt man and we were done, I am not exaggerating, with the M1 at peak hour in 20 minutes.

However, there have been times when it has gotten hairy, my ride has been disastrous, and I have sworn that I would never ride in a taxi again. Like when I was sitting in the front seat and the driver contemplated aloud about venturing across on to oncoming traffic.

He added that he did not trust the sharp bend ahead of him as our Nemesis (you loathe them when you’re late), the traffic police, usually hide there.

He ignored his instincts and went ahead. Alas, we saw the traffic cops waiting in the shade but they had not spotted our taxi yet, so he reversed and tried to squeeze in front of the black Megane we had been inching along in the traffic with.

The woman driver denied him.

Our driver begged. We pleaded. But she wouldn’t budge.

Our taxi was spotted and the police came at us. Our driver tried to drive away and the Metro man who had already stepped out of his vehicle with his pad and pen ready, had to chase him on foot.

When our driver was cornered, his keys were taken away and we were ordered out of the taxi.

I’ve found that taxi drivers are very impartial when they resolve squabbles between passengers. My friend once told me she had been waiting for over 30 minutes when a taxi came to save her, but she was pushed aside by a much bigger woman who claimed she had bought an annual card and had the right of way, even though she had not waited in line.

“The driver demanded to see the card, but she couldn’t produce it, claiming she had forgotten it at home. He ordered her to move over so I could get in. He was so heroic,” she said dreamily.

I bet they would annoy me if I was in a BMW and they cut right in front of me only to stop without warning half a metre later. But for now, as they drive over islands with music blaring through perfectly arranged speakers, the fact that I get to work earlier than my editor (who drives an A-Class Mercedes Benz) is all right with me.

• Nozipho Masabalala is a 20-something Johannesburg-based writer, currently working in public relations.

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