So on Wednesday I took a taxi. Not a “cab”, a minibus taxi driven by stereotype like Zulu taxi driver. In fact so stereotypical this guy was, with his window rolled down, elbow sticking out, he threw some deep zulu curse at one of his friends on the street and threatened to beat him up. I wasn’t alarmed nor did I become nervous at all about this little exchange of strange love towards one another.
Of course using a taxi is nothing unusual. Minibus taxis is one of the main modes of transportation in South Africa and most of the continent actually, as I’ve discovered through travelling other parts of Africa. For years mini bus taxis have played an important role in our communities getting people to and from work or school. It’s difficult to say that we don’t have reliable transportation in SA when majority of South Africans rely on taxis. And yes, they do strike and cause chaos on the roads, have a reputation of violence and that makes me angry and will never be acceptable. However I’ve also been delayed many a time by SAA, so I could easily say that we don’t have reliable air transportation either. Personally I think the biggest issue with taxis is how we’ve allowed them to bully us. They are like the mafia of South Africa. They need to be regulated.
As a black South African, humbly raised by a hardworking single parent, you make a vow to self, to work really hard and never again go through the struggles and sometimes even the humiliation of arrogant taxi drivers. So I guess I should thank them. Taxi drivers made me one hell of an ambitious person. It took me an embarrassing five trials to get a license. Five! Never have I felt so useless in my entire life! Luckily I had a wonderful boyfriend who was always there to pick up my shattered soul, glue it together and encourage me to go again each time I’d nervously rolled back, hit a pole while ally-docking or forgot to check my blind spot. I have to tell you though, because of that experience I can confidently say I’m a master “parker” – take me to Long street in Cape Town, Florida Road in Durban or our lovely Parktown North’s Seventh avenue and I’ll parallel park in-between two cars like I invented it.
Getting my license and getting a car was my official goodbye to the dirty urine smelly ranks, being the target of sitting between two really big mamas just because you are the “slender” one. I waved goodbye to sitting on one of those terribly worn-out, fold-up seats, that no longer lock into position, with no back support forcing you to hold on to the window and seat in front to avoid falling, and then each time someone shouts “sho’t left” from the back,having to continuously get up, fold the seat and while bending over someone else’s head, let them through to get out of the taxi. I have terrifying memories of jumping over a big hole on the taxi floor, literally seeing the tar road as the taxi moved, praying hard I won’t fall through or most frustrating would be running late for an interview or your new job because the driver had stopped in the middle of the highway, refusing to move since somehow money had gone missing and everyone in the taxi looking at each other with blank faces as if to say, “you know I gave you my R20”. Thinking how you desperately need this job so you can start saving for your car deposit, so you never, ever, ever have to go through all of the horror ever again!
Yet this Wednesday, I took the liberty to jump onto a taxi ironically to go fetch my car that had gone in for service that day. Now I could have asked a friend to take me there. But honestly, I didn’t see the need. After all, although we are always in antagonistic relations with taxi drivers (I’ve even been in a head-on collision with an unlicensed taxi driver who got away with it, so trust me I’m not oblivious to their life-threatening, gangster, bullish driving style) taxis are a part of our public transport system and therefore an option. The car dealer was only about 7 km away and I could have even jogged. However, running was not an option since I was carrying a handbag, so I chose to walk – only after about a half km and seeing a taxi go by, I figured it was the better alternative to help me get there faster. Not sure what sign to use, I stuck to what I knew best and pointed with my index finger upwards to stop him (we should by now have a dictionary of signs used to stop a taxi). It being midday I was the only one in the taxi and we were off. I gave him R10 expecting about R4 back. When I asked for change, he said to me, it actually costs R11. Shocked for days! Had taxi fees gone up that much? A pleasant guy nonetheless, he didn’t want the extra R1. I thanked him and got off.
I still had another Kilometer and a half to walk, and this gave me time to reflect on the experience. Firstly, it reminded me of how blessed I really am. Many years later, I was now referring to a taxi ride as an “experience”. What I most appreciated about this experience is how my perception had changed. Of course I still don’t like the idea of catching a taxi. But knowing I can freely take a taxi without any fear is a form of liberation. Much as I’d vowed to never ever catch at taxi again – my new vow is to never ever feel trapped by perceptions. Yes, I deserve better and unapologetically only want the best for myself. And I’m willing to work for it. But also would hate the idea of feeling trapped in my own castle. As I continue to work hard & smart towards the lifestyle I desire, I still want to know how to remain centered. And what that means is that I want to have a full radius of life options and yet remain anchored to my core. I don’t want to be limited. I don’t want to no longer shop and Mr Price because I now swipe my card at Luminance. I want to be afforded a wealth of options. As I continue to build my career profile, develop my skills and education, as I slowly evolve into an entrepreneur and eventually convert my intellectual investments into wealth generating assets (not there yet,but it will come), I want to remain centered. Of course I’ll probably still prefer a private jet in Lanseria over economy class seat 8A at ORT , but I want that to be a choice not a matter of protocol of a certain class of people. It’s pretty much like how it is when you are at a club, with VIP tickets, but you still choose to go dance with the “not so VIP” ticket holders, because you know it’s where the real party is happening.
Freedom to choose makes me happy.
And just before I dropped the top of my cabriolet and drove to the sunset 😉 , I thought to myself, we need to start telling a different story about the taxi industry. Sometimes by focusing on the positive things that taxi drivers do (not an easy task, I know) we might motivate and breed a different man or woman behind that wheel. Sometimes I feel that they are living up to our own expectations. And the antagonistic energy we send out when we see these guys on the road is what we end up inflicting ourselves with.
Perhaps I’m wrong. But what if I’m not? 🙂
“…wouldn’t it be nice, if raindrops turned to jelly tots…”