Friday, September 16, 2005

If not "just now", then when?

Hello again. ...

Just got back from the school run, and I’m now waiting for the fabled air shipment. It’s supposed to come “just now”.

Don’t be fooled, though. “Just now”, to you and me, means “really really soon”, if not “already”. To a South African, well, God, who knows? Could be an hour from now, could be today, could be tomorrow, could be next week. Not to knock you Brits, but all I can say is, good thing I got used to British “customer service” over the course of three years, because it would have been an AWFUL shock to come to South Africa straight from the States. This way I had lots of time to lower my expectations for the speed at which things get done.... (now, now, don’t get all huffy, you know it’s true!)

So, have to stay in today, until the shipment shows. Means I can’t go out driving around town, getting lost. What am I driving? Well, it’s a very nice borrowed Audi. It can really speed. The roads are wide and flat and mostly straight, and you’re driving along at 120km/h in a residential zone before you even realize. (That’s when I haven’t stalled it again at the lights.) Lots of opportunity to use the handbrake here, as it’s really hilly. I stall at least once a day. “Women drivers!” ... I can hear you now!

Driving requires all your attention. Which means I’m seriously handicapped right now, with my brainless airheadedness -- or is it actually lightheadedness, due to lack of oxygen? Whatever. Anyway, besides worrying about whether or not to stall, I’m also trying to avoid all the jillions of people standing in the road, selling stuff. These guys are at every major intersection, standing on the lane lines of every lane, holding out ... well, you name it. Car phone chargers, straw handbags, bags of avocados... yesterday I saw I guy with a two foot long scale model of a wooden ship. Now what possesses anyone to stop at a stoplight and decide, “Gee, I really need a wooden ship for my mantlepiece right now.... Hey..., yo! .... over here!!!

The people who aren’t selling merchandise (whatever fell off the truck last night) are angling to wash your windscreen, or take any rubbish off your hands, for a small fee. Then there’s the poor guy handing out cards for Spanish lessons. Hmmmm. I only do French. (And that’s only with guys I really like....!) And then there are all the women sitting in the median strip of the 6 lane highway, with babies in slings on their backs. Simply begging. Ach, wow. It’s hard to get your head around it.

There’s the blind guy with his cane, and his friend who keeps him on the median, the lady selling newspapers (there’s one paper called Junk Mail -- do you suppose you have to pay for that one???), and then people selling feather dusters, clothes hangers, plastic flamingos... Man-o-man. And all I want to do is drive across town without killing anybody.

Speaking of which, one of the first nights we were here, we were driving home from a wonderful dinner (sushi, since you asked!) and up ahead saw lots of blue flashing lights. Slowed down to be careful, and there (in the median strip, again) was a dead body, a person, partly covered with a greenish sheet. Yikes! A few police standing around... no need to hurry, no hope... and the blood was simply streaming across the roadway. It gleamed reddish and blueish and metallic silvery all at once. I didn’t know a person could HAVE that much blood in them.

From the back seat, “Did you see that?” Yup, Miss T, welcome to Africa...

Of course, that could have been me, when we first got to England three years ago. Step off the curb while reading the pavement that says, “Look LEFT”..... No, NO! The other left! Crunch. Did I ever get a chance to tell you I’m crap with “left” and “right”? Even arrows confuse me! Oh well. Run over by a bus and she’s not even out of the flippin’ airport yet. Sheesh!

At least here they do still drive on the British side of the roadway. Which would be... don’t tell me... on the left! Is that right? Trust me, I AM managing to stay on the proper side of the road... I had more problems this year while driving in the States. Not that I got to drive very much, as Mr. D had the car keys firmly in his clutches the whole two weeks... but that’s another story for another day. Don’t get me started!

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