David Moseley

My people are horrible

2013-06-19 10:10

David Moseley

While loitering in Cape Town's CBD I often witness well-dressed citizens arguing with the city’s parking officials. These gleaming BMW-driving people have stopped for a meeting in town, parked in a parking bay that, while exorbitantly priced, still needs to be paid for.

Invariably, Mr or Mrs Fancy has just been there for "two minutes" and can't understand why he or she has to hand over the princely sum of R5 to the pleading parking man (or woman).

Finger wagging and shouts of "you people" (not in the racist way, but rather in the "I'm better than you" way) generally follow, the end result either being the begrudging payment or the BMW squealing off in a fit of fury, leaving the parking official to explain how he's R5 short at the end of the day.

I've seen the well-healed sprinting to their cars to avoid paying. I even know of one barmy woman who parked all day in the CBD and purposefully left after hours to avoid stumping up the cash. Not to be outdone, the plucky parking man tracked her movements over a few days, eventually forcing the cheapskate to admit defeat, but not before screeching at the injustice of it all.

I'm no angel either. Aghast at the price increase to ride my bike in a well-known Cape Town forest, I sarcastically asked the lady in the ticket booth if I got a free t-shirt along with my entry.

We make these snarky, ill-tempered comments to people who are just doing their jobs and then march off, to enjoy our leisure activities or drive home from meetings to warm houses and good food.

The man collecting parking fees or the woman sitting in a tiny booth all day while we venture into the forest to enjoy ourselves, I highly doubt they are afforded the same small luxuries in their lives.

Of course, I wouldn't have realised this unless I'd experienced it firsthand. Apart from a brief stint stacking shelves (and don't get me started on how rude shop customers can be), I've always been lucky enough to have a "real" job, a job that involves a desk, a phone, e-mail, a decent salary and some minor perks along the way. You don't stop to think about anyone else in the mad scramble to survive in South Africa.

But two weekends ago I did stop, and the scenery wasn't pleasant. My business had hired youngsters to sell match programmes at the Springbok Test in Durban. After a near full day of selling, I asked how it was going. "Tough," came the unanimous reply. "People are rude," said some others.

In the spirit of investigative journalism, I took up a bag of match programmes for the last 90 minutes before kick off to see how many I could sell, and to witness the sour attitudes described to me.

Standing at the main Kings Park entrance with two of the young girls, who were laughing at my failed sales pitches, I saw ill-manners, sexism, unnecessary and unprovoked horribleness, sarcasm and so many "I left my wallet" in the car excuses that I started to think of Durbanites as a particularly feeble-minded lot.

One chap, driving into the ground in a slick Range Rover and dressed from a Horse and Hound hunting catalogue (all that was missing was the beagle by his said) declared the price a bit rich for his taste. Another berated a young man loudly and insultingly for having the temerity to try and sell him a piece of "crap", before stomping off to pay a fortune for a boerwors roll that was originally cooked three months prior.

Interestingly, I had a long chat with some of the sellers after the game. What do you do, I asked. "Third year Law," said one. "First year Chemistry," said another. "Final year Engineering, architecture, IT" and on went the list of impressive degrees.

Which lead me to two conclusions. One, the middle of the middle classes are a mean-spirited bunch who care little for others and fail to stop and take in the value of the little luxuries they're afforded.

Two, be careful who you speak down to when you're being a pompous ass. He might be bailing you out of jail one day. Or building your home. Or providing the country with a valuable service. You just never know.

(I sold eight match programmes, by the way).

- Follow @david_moseley on Twitter.

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