R8.00 for a trip from Newlands (in Joburg) to the city centre is a bargain in anyone’s language, the city’s buses will cost you R12.00 a trip, for R32.00 in the taxi you can travel to town and back twice!
And those living here know that town is not just around the corner, or a walking distance that can be covered with a cool stroll – every minute and second of my trip to town reminded me that I’d only paid a mere R8.00, most of the trip through the suburb “Freitas’ was, and I kid you not, on the pavement where papers, toddlers, beggars, pieces of furniture and dust scrambled all over the show to get out of our way, gone was the spanner of old, in was power steering to confirm once and for all how advanced modern technology has become, one hair-raising moment quickly gave way to another, we clung to our seats and breeches, our knuckles turning white, those who believed in God shut their eyes tight and ran quivering hands over their rosary’s beads.
We were either driving too fast or stopping suddenly, there was no slowing down and each small dent in the road felt like a crater for what was once a shock absorber was now being dragged underneath (making sparks fly which could be seen by any one of us passengers’ inside the vehicle), I was convinced that one more hard jolt would without doubt dislocate my spine if not my lower body from my upper body outright, sweat ran from my forehead,, down my cheeks, chin and neck as terror took a firmer and firmer hold over me.
The buxom woman of a certain age next to me was now practically sitting on my lap and I worried that I’d have lots of explaining to do if the taxi capsized, an outcome that seemed not only the most likely, but also the most logical - if she had any such qualms, she did a very good job of not showing it, on the contrary, she gave me furtive and mischievous looks from time to time with the corners of her eyes, her lips curling into a smile, I struggled not to take it the wrong way.
It’s true what they say about imminent danger, it heightens the senses, and perhaps I was just imagining things, in my happy place. Respite came in the form of a big tree branch that the taxi driver, despite his best effort, could simply not drive over, so he sent us out to drag it out of the way, we hopped out, happy to be still breathing, dragged the big tree branch out of the pavement and into the road while the taxi driver enjoyed a hearty chat on his mobile phone, stopping only to cast disapproving glances our way.
I intended to have a quiet word with him, mostly concerning safety issues and the like but chose the wiser alternative of keeping my mouth shut and hopped back into the taxi, before I knew it we were at Bree, he saw the unimpressed look in my face and said, “What?! You didn’t die innit?” good point.
“True, see you on the way back” I said, but he was already way down the road, hooting for more passengers’ for the return trip, definitely not one to stand on ceremony. To put it mildly, our mini-bus taxi drivers’ are not known for their commitment to safe driving - a red robot, an orange one or a green one are all one and the same thing as they screech, lurch, jerk speed, stop suddenly, and then take off again with little or no warning leaving skid-marks behind them.
And they’re not “Black Taxis” as I once overheard someone calling them, many Black, White, Coloured and Indians depend heavily on this mode of transport to get them speedily to their places of employment and back – admittedly there’s a visible shortage of White taxi drivers, brave is the man who will try to transform this industry – yes there Was the token White guy who was given the Northcliff to Bree Street route, I hear he has retired to the less stressful life of cage-fighting.
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