Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Don't touch me. Don't touch my car.

So I carried on with the week. Did some Pilates Tuesday. Met friends for lunch on Wednesday. The tennis girls for coffee on Thursday, did banking with Oscar on Friday. I thought I was ok. I thought so.

But Tessa and I went out on Friday, up to the Mini dealership, to pick up the new key for the car. I was fairly irritable, yes. I’ve been a bit tetchy, jumpy, all week.

So we came out of the Mini dealership, up to a stoplight. A guy came toward me, walking down the lane-lines, a 2 liter coke bottle in his one hand, a squeegee in the other. I accidentally looked at him, looked him in the eyes. Realized my mistake, shook my head firmly, meaning, “No, NO, I don’t want my windscreen washed.”

I looked away, and then suddenly, a squeegee sponge was moving down my glass.

“NO. NO. NO!!!! NOOOO!!” It was me.

I screamed it, shrieked it, bellowed it.... “NO, NO!”, in the most horrible way. “NO!!!! I WON’T HAVE IT!!!! NO! NO!”

Not an effort to be polite, no apology after. Just a complete, total flip out.

He dried that bit of my window, “Ah, sorree, mommee, pleasee, sorreee, sorreee...”

Miss T was appalled.

“Mom, ALL you had to say was, ‘no’.”

Yeah, that could work. I guess.

And in the end, you can see why everyone, everyone, is angry in this country. Yes, it’s beautiful, yes it’s sunny. But people drive like effin’ maniacs, and now I will too. Don’t step in front of my car, pal. I don’t want to buy your freakin’ sunglasses. Why are you HERE, making me drive around you?” It’s so sick.

People talk to service workers, people at the bank, the dry cleaners, the grocery, irritably, right from the start. They roll their eyes, they grimace. Like, “Right, this isn’t going to go right today, is it?” Language issues, laziness issues, African time issues. Everyone expects the worst of everyone else. And then they dive in headfirst, gonna change lanes, take your place in line, insult you first, give you the two fingers, then see what comes of it all. Nothing very good, hey?

It is so flippin’ disheartening and uncivilized, for a so-called “civilized” country.

Welcome, for the second time, for REAL this time.

This time: Welcome again to South Africa.


Peter said...

I read some of your blogposts about South Africa and it's a pity that you had such a negative experience in Johannesburg.

However, some of your comments really made me frown because it was clear that for some strange reason you are convinced that Johannesburg is represenative of life in South Africa in general? That is simply not the case.

Johannesburg is a crime-ridden city and everyone knows it. No surprise there. If I were you, I simply would have hopped on a plane and made my way to Cape Town! One of the best cities in the world. I lived in Cape Town for many years and I've never ever even heard a gunshot. Nobody lives in huge fortresses there most just enjoy the laidback life in the Cape. 8 million tourists a year agree.

Why people choose to live in Johannesburg is beyond me, I wouldn't do it either. But I also know it's not representative of South Africa.

In the USA, would I assume that crime in Vermont is the same as in Detroit? Of course not. Worlds apart. The same goes for South AFrica.

I lived in Poland (Wroclaw) for 2 years. I was robbed 3 times in 6 months. I've never been robbed in Cape Town nor lived in fear that it was going to happen. Do I now hate Poland and tell everyone that Poland is a dump? Of course not. Yet you sell SA through your writing as if it's Hell and nothing more. Did you even visit other parts of SA while you were here?

I've travelled quite a bit and have visited several countries thoughout my life (and lived in a few). One thing I learnt is that there is only one certainty in life, american ignorance is in abundance.

expateek said...

As it happens, I did travel around South Africa quite a lot, and I agree with you, Capetown is lovely and very different from Jozi. As it happened, my husband's job assignment was in Johannesburg so that was where we were required to live. I couldn't just "hop on a plane" to make my way to live in Capetown. Perhaps your finances make this possible for you, but for our situation this was not an option.

There are many things that are lovely about South Africa, and I sincerely hope that things there improve.

Your gratuitous insult about Americans was undeserved.