Where have all the flags gone?

2010-08-03 00:00

HAVING dutifully participated in Football Friday for umpteen months, we are now being rounded up again to participate in Flag Friday. My spirit is willing, but the flag on my car is not just weak, it’s almost “late”. To translate for those who don’t grasp KZN-speak, that means deceased.

Not wanting to be a partypooper, I dutifully went in search of a new flag to fly, especially since it serves another purpose, but more of that later. First I tried the Victoria Street fence, where some Zimbabweans used to do a steady trade, but they had gone. Then I tried the traffic lights at Peter Kerchhoff Street and Victoria Road which used to be decked out like a United Nations parade, but that was also no more. Finally, I cruised along Sanctuary Road, trying to look honourably purposeful, lest I be accused of loitering with disreputable intent. Alas, not even one single salesperson of pre- owned car mirror covers was to be found. They have all disappeared as suddenly and silently as they appeared, like early morning mist over Maritzburg.

Where have they gone, and what have they done with all their unsold stock? I find it hard to believe that they can have sold every­thing. After all, after the first round, who could have wanted a Greek or French flag? It’s not as though I’m asking for a sought-after Spanish flag, a German or even a BaGhana-BaGhana one. All I want is one SA flag to put on my car window. Where on Earth have they and those selling them gone?

Perhaps the sellers have taken a long-distance taxi home for some R&R, but what of their unsold stock? One national chain store offered to turn discarded flags into duvet covers and pillow cases. A youthful journo suggested they become miniskirts, bikinis or hair bandanas for the young and glamo­rous. These are dubious ideas. National pride and protocol dictate that the flags of nations be treated with the respect due an important symbol, hence the gravity with which flag-burning protests are viewed in many countries. A browse through Wikipedia will tell you how seriously some countries take their flags, dedicating laws to defining just how they may or may not be treated.

Earlier mention of car mirror covers reminds me of interesting uses to which I have seen them put. The first flashed past me stretched over a cyclist’s crash helmet, while the second was shielding a small baby’s head from the sun. However, for lateral thinking, neither of these have any­thing on the one I saw in the northern Berg secured over a container of sugar as protection against insects.

I must confess that my desire to purchase another flag for my car has a motivation that has less to do with national fervour, and more to do with car parks. I have a long-abiding and seemingly incurable propensity for “losing’’ my motor vehicle in parking lots. The car guards at the mall have come to know me well. I’m the one they see from time to time wandering around with my arm in the air desperately activating the “open” button on my key hoping that my car will “beep” to tell me where it is. I can advise that this strategy is more successful at night than during the day. You can hear the sound more easily and — even better — see the flash of the headlights. Since my car started flying a flag, it has been a great deal easier to find it in a car park, especially since many others have removed theirs. So, if you find someone selling car flags, please buy me several. That way, my car will always be Proudly South African and I’ll be able to find it, long after the World Cup and Flag Friday have ended.

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