well, this is one of them strange ones. i am not sure i should be writing it. this started off with an innocent enough question from overseas. the answer, as partial as this one may be, seems to be quite big.
i am hesitant to write this partially because i am not the best driver in the world, although i am some way from being the worst too. "average" i guess. mostly, though, i hesitate because this is an emotive subject here, likely to cause anger and i have nowhere to direct that anger towards. misdirected anger just leads to bad days for bathroom doors.
a friend saw an episode of that Top Gear show which featured an SA Taxi. a comment was made on the show that the taxis are the most hated thing in the world here, so i was asked it this was true. my answer is a qualified and partial yes. it's more that they are a somewhat misunderstood major sign of a huge socio-economic issue, but that's not as easy as hooting, swearing and phoning crap radio stations to complain, now, is it?
these pictures, and indeed video (wahey!) were taken whilst my car was stood still or whilst i was a passenger. no doubt i do twat-like things myself in a car, but not to that level of twatdom. and so to start off with, here's a taxi deciding it was not prepared to sit in traffic any more.
yep, that's a, shall we say half a mile, tailback of traffic we are all sat in. the taxi has just opted to bomb down the other (incorrect) side of the road instead of sitting it out. what happens if a car comes the other way? if it is lucky the taxi will swerve on to the side, if unlucky then best the driver of the other car swerve.
i'd like to think i am sensitive if not politically correct. none of this is intended to insult anyone but the twats of the road, so if you take it any other way it was not intended and that's entirely your call.
in broad ways, to well off white people here the taxi is symbolic of all that is "wrong" with this country. they are overloaded, usually not in any condition fit for the road, break any law created and do so with consequences being rare. to not at all well off black people, they are symbolic of all that is "wrong" with this country. an ANC government has for almost 20 years now failed to provide proper, decent and reliable public transport for those who cannot afford cars, and many low income people have no choice but to ride in these deadly vehicles to get to work or, and here's the frightening part, school.
seeing the socio-economic thing here? add to that the taxi industry being literally cut-throat and every now and then gunshot, the maniacs driving them like maniacs are pretty much in that trap of having to do that because "all other drivers do".
here's a gem, and you will note i have taken the time to cover licence plates of non-twat drivers.
right there you can see a taxi just stopped at an intersection. that's right, it stops where people want to get on or off, not where it was safe or legal to do it. just behind it you should be able to make out one of them digger things, or some sort of construction vehicle.
people reading this in the Northern Hemisphere, and indeed in selected parts of the Southern, will be asking "what the f*** is a construction vehicle doing driving in a residential area during peak hours". good question. in most decent places, where the roads have rules that generally get obeyed, strict conditions are in place about construction vehicles and vehicles over a certain tonnage. not so here. some construction guy wants to move 16 tons of bricks through a residential area at rush hour? no problem.
back to taxis. i unwisely left the kind of gap between me and the car in front of me that the law kind of requires you to do. none but the insane do this, really, as it's basically an invitation to any other vehicle, frequently taxis, to cut in, whether they can fit or not.
to that end, then, here's a taxi trying to force me out of where i was and in to oncoming traffic so he can fit in. cheers for that.
most times, believe it or not, i don't have an issue with taxis. they for the most part do their thing no better or worse than anyone else on the road. as you will see just now.
every time i have driven a car here, and i do mean every time - no matter how short - at some point on my drive i will have taken at least one action to avoid a move by another car likely to cause an accident. yes, in theory we do have a driving test here and you are supposed to have a licence to drive. but they are p!ss easy to buy fake.
an incident which occurs every time i go down this one road - and sadly there is no alternate but to use this road - is the one you see in this picture.
yes indeed, that is a car ignoring 2 (two) no entry signs and turning the wrong way down a one way street. why are they doing it? selfish laziness, it is easier to turn in there to get to the shops than it is to go a few yards down the road and turn right at the lights.
why is there a no entry sign there? because it's on a downhill blind corner, that's why. it is a miracle no one has smashed in to me whilst i sit and wait for some utter, utter twat to turn because they want to. i have seen a few knocks.
more than once, dear reader, i have been going the right way down that one way, and had someone coming head on at me illegally. they have had the audacity and nerve to shout and flash lights at me. i would be pretty sure that you can guess the content of my response.
check this out for the amusement factor - a BMW using its indicators to show it is about to make an illegal turn down a one way street.
once upon a time the police were out in numbers for things like this and indeed stop signs. they hovered around residential areas near schools, because of course if we do not protect our children then we, as a people, are nothing. but the police don't do roadblocks or monitoring of signs like these being obeyed anymore. they are not fighting the high level of crime here either. the traffic police, at rush hour, can be found manning speed traps, hoping to catch someone speeding in bumper to bumper, snail pace traffic. they can sit down whilst they do that, you see.
but doesn't this mean lots of accidents and fatalities, in particular involving children, because reckless drivers are aware no one will punish them, you ask? why, but of course it does. this is what happens when you allow leaders to become known as "leaders" when they sit in the lap of luxury too long.
there's that old saying that absolute power corrupts absolutely. well, representatives of the ANC have made comments about how they will stay in power "until Jesus Christ returns to Earth", often quoting the idea of a reign that will last a thousand years, which sounds oddly familiar in a German way.
they don't give a fuck about children or people dying for no reason purely because they don't give a fuck for anything beyond their opulence and their position of power. all too often "leaders" have taken this approach, forgetting where and how the power came from. many people believe when that "president", Mbeki, and his bizarre "minister" for health, started claiming that AIDS was not real but an "illuminati conspiracy" and whatever the illness really was could be cured by a mix of garlic and "African potatoes", it was not "some crazy African leader behaving as expected", but rather a cold, cynical ploy to deflect from the fact that if they helped AIDS patients to live they would also have to feed and house them. and that costs more money than, say, watching a family take loans to bury a loved one.
throw that view from up on high in with a dangerous mix of a ruthless destruction of an education system and you have a population that not only believes "illuminati" theories, but also that a cure for this "AIDS thing" might be boiled bleach, or forced sex with a child. but never mind, Annie Lennox and Peter Gabriel come along and do an AIDS benefit concert every now and then to pretend everything is normal, and Bono does the odd concert, which is nice for Bono fans in rude health.
let's go back to our friend in the BMW, doing his illegal turn down a one way street.
the best part of it when they do this is that the actually stop in the middle of the road to see if it is OK for them to go down the wrong way. class, that is. how about you just don't turn down streets marked with no entry signs, bellends?
i mentioned stop signs here. as the name implies, it's a street marking which means you are expected to stop your car and not proceed past it until it is safe to do so. it is not a "slow down" sign, and nor is it a "bomb through it fast and assume everyone else with stop" sign. but that's what people, with the lack of policing, have seen them as now being.
by a stroke of luck, with my (considerably) better half driving, i was able to catch a magic moment on film.
yes, that's right. that clip shows 4 - four! - cars all running stops signs at the same time. quite an incredible moment in driving. if they could all only apply such unison and synchronicity to legal driving things here would be much, much better on the roads.
when someone basically tailgates me through a stop sign, one that i assure you i will have stopped at, i basically just reduce my speed down to the lowest legal possible for the duration of the journey that the car in question is behind me. it quite frustrates them, really. shame. yes it leads to a lot of people flashing lights, calling out rude names and making gestures. shame.
and to finish off with, how many of you around the world see this on the roads?
yep, overloaded, mirrors (which granted i do not care for) and back window entirely obscured, and driving on the hard shoulder or emergency lane, depending on what you call it. the funny thing was a traffic police car went past this and didn't even give a cheeky wave to the chap to at least drive on the correct part of the road.
so there's the answer. if everyone hates taxis here, it's because more than a few of everyone are reckless, lawbreaking, selfish maniacs on the road. as with all hatred, a degree of jealousy and spite must be at the foundation of it, really.
this blog, by and large, is usually an exercise in burying the head in the sand to get away from the insanity of the regular world. my apologies for this rare diversion into the real world. i'm not sure i am happy writing it, but every now and then you have to ask if not me, then who.
do drive carefully.
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!