The mountains surrounding the basin are covered in clouds. Deep hues of grey and purple are broken to soft pink where the rays of sun are struggling to break through. The earthy scent of last night’s rain still lingers in the air and it’s time to get to work. I am pulled out of my mesmerized state by Michael pulling up next to the side of the road. “Morning Ma”, his standard greeting, is echoed by all in the taxi.
The trip is a funny one this morning. Michael is joking about all the ladies and their different perfumes that make his taxi smell like a proper harem, and everyone adds their bit to the conversation in a jovial way.
“Ses pad, or have you forgotten about me” says Jenny on the way to school with her son. “Sorry Ma, my head is at the football!” Michael asks where the next stop will be and 3 or 4 voices speak up, all with different stops. He memorizes them all and duly gets all passengers to their desired stop. Aunt Mary is full of stories about the kids and grandchildren that had her running all weekend. At my stop I had gotten lost in thought again and forgot to tell him, but he knows by now and automatically pulls up at the sidewalk at my office. “Lekker dag, Ma”, “Lekker dag, Michael”.
Its 4:30, time to go home. The rank is a beehive of activity with dark clouds threatening to explode at any second. Gary, the larger than live rank master, sees me coming and immediately start looking around, “Wie van mense vir die Baai?”. This is the tricky bit, in the afternoon, no-one wants to do the trip to the Bay, and they’ll get back to late.
Teddy volunteers and shows us to where he is parked. He is called Teddy simply because he looks like a real life-size teddy bear. Seated next to me is Oom Paul. His dark brown skin is a map of deep boroughs. He is slowly eating his packet of Lays Lightly Salted while sipping at his 500ml Coke. He’ll only eat and drink half, as he does every day. When he gets off, his wife will be waiting at the side of the road, loving kisses his cheek and take her half of the chips and Coke. Once the taxi is loaded, Teddy turns around and individually checks with all passengers where they want to get off. Bus stop, stasie, 4-stop (the stop sign at 4th Street, 5-hoek (the corner of 5th and Gustrow), 11-pad (11th Street), 85 Daisy, 35 Anneke and so it carries on. Satisfied that he knows which route to take, he switches on his radio. RSG (Radio Sonder Grense) will be our en-route entertainment today. With Teddy, it’s only RSG, Coleske Brothers or Kurt Darren). Quite an informative show and I pick up the most fantastic recipe for a warm winter indulgence: Double thick hot chocolate! It sounds absolutely divine and I’ll be sure to try it pretty soon!
I don’t know how they do it, but without enquiring again, he gets each passenger to their required destination. “Dankie Niggie, lekker aand” he says goodbye as I get off.
For the past two months I have found myself without transport. After considering the options (lift club – couldn’t find one, walking – did this for 3 days, but two hours of walking before and after work is a bit much, taxi – mmm) I went with taxi. Was I pleasantly surprised!
There are no funny smells, blaring music, dangerous driving, threats of any kind. It’s actually just people like you and me that need to get to work and back home, making use of a service by more ordinary people who need to make a living.
I’ll be taking a taxi for a long time to come and love the community that I have become a part off!