Driving me up the wall

Can I chat about traffic for a moment? I recently moved back down to the south and over the past month and a half I’ve realised just how spoilt I’ve been having access to the MyCiti bus. Yes, yes, I complained bitterly on Twitter about the bus, the drivers and my fellow commuters – but even back then, deep down inside, I did get how fortunate I was to not be sitting in traffic in Paarden Eiland. Yes, even that day when our driver slammed on breaks and everyone fell out of their seats like skittles, or that day our driver decided to try squeeze past another bus and opened his vehicle like a tin can. Come to think of it, that may have been the same day…

But still, hugely fortunate. I got a small taste of it when I had to take my car to town a few days in a row a while back and within minutes I was in the throes of a road rage incident. Wait, let me clarify, there were no cricket bats involved, not even any exiting the vehicle. But that bloody woman in the car ahead of me who couldn’t decide what speed she wanted to go, and that hideous bully in the big silver monstrosity behind me who seemed to think I should remove myself from the road so he could get one whole car closer to town… my blood was boiling. I went back to the bus with a happy sigh and limited my Twitter complaints to two a week for a while.

Why does the universe hate me?

Now that I’m back in the south, though, I don’t have the bus as an option. And oh, how I miss it. I tried the train a few weeks back. What a hideously depressing experience. Seriously. Torn seats, graffitied inside and out, little streams of urine trickling through the carriage and windows so filthy and damaged the only way you can see what station you’ve just arrived at is to either peer through the tiny gap, or risk standing near the door, which is problematic because more people get tossed out of trains sans bags and shoes than you’d like to know.

Let’s ignore the petrol costs of taking my car to town and back five days a week, and the fact that I don’t have a parking bay so every day is an adventure – the traffic is completely unpredictable. Used to be that school holidays meant that the roads would be emptier and you could comfortably leave 28 minutes later than usual. Now? There’s just no telling. Colleagues sat in jams for over three hours the other day and eventually gave up and went home. Why? No bloody clue. Maybe it’s just because people in Cape Town are automatically transformed into idiots the moment their engines spring to life. Note: I didn’t say Capetonians, because, while yes, we are some of the biggest culprits, check out the license plates and you’ll see our roads are equal opportunity idiot-makers.

We’re either speeding or aimlessly drifting across three lanes and back again. Forget racing through lights just as they turn red. We laugh in the face of that kind of opportunism. We cruise through with the four cars behind us when it’s already been red for a good 5 seconds. Oh, and we love, love, love to get ourselves stranded in the middle of intersections when the lights change so we completely bugger things up for the people whose lights have just gone green. That’s one of our favourite things to do.

Accurate.

I’m not even going to address people texting and driving, or playing Candy Crush and driving or whatever the hell it is they’re doing heads bowed and one hand (if we’re lucky) on the wheel. Guys, Oprah told us not to years ago, can we just get our shit together and stop already?

Thing is, traffic sucks. Being late because of avoidable fender benders that happened 45 minutes before you even left the house sucks. But we can do small things to make it easier. Don’t be that jerk who waits till the very last second to cross over a solid white line to get into the lane they need – you’re the reason the traffic in that lane is so backed up in the first place. Put your phone down – one bonus is that you’ll give your freemium game a little extra time to replenish your lives, oh, and you won’t kill people. And if the person in front of you is already going the speed limit (if not a little over) don’t be a tosser and ride right up on their bumper, even though you can clearly see there’s a queue of cars in front of them, and them moving will do pretty much zilch to get you to your meeting any sooner.

We’re all in this together, let’s be a team, let’s make everyone’s journey a little safer and easier – but most importantly can you all please be a little less idiotic so I don’t have to start each day with a tantrum behind the wheel of my slowly-overheating Ford?

Get in line

Want to see my inner derby girl come out? Try cut in front of me in the bus queue, or stand pointedly in my way when I’m trying to clamber off the bus or leave the platform. I’m generally pretty polite, ridiculously considerate in fact, but do either of those things when I’m on my way to work or (worse still) heading home after a difficult day, and I’ll hip check you into last week, or at least as far as platform nine.

I’ve done it before, I’m not prou… screw that, I AM proud to admit it. Because some people are just so blatantly rude. They see a snaking queue of tired people inching as close to the person in front of them as common decency will allow. They clock the resigned stares into the middle distance, the wind-swept, rain-matted hair and rumpled jackets. And then when the 107 finally pulls up they boldly step right to the front and try to force their way into the stuffy interior of the bus first.

bus card

Bus cards can also double up as weapons

So, yes, I’ve employed the use of a sturdy hip or shoulder check. Making sure, of course to just keep rolling. Because the best way to cause a scene is to stop to admire your handiwork. Executed correctly, the recipent is knocked (gently, but firmly) off course, allowing everyone else who waited patiently like normal human beings to board while they’re still trying to figure out who was responsible, or even if it was on purpose. Rest assured, your fellow commuters, those in close proximity, will have noticed, their weary half smiles all the thanks you need.

At the end of a rough day, I would actually almost welcome the resulting confrontation. That harried hour when tensions run high, when everyone is exhausted, irritated, impatient to get home (just so they can cook, clean and take care of squealing, hyped up kids) – that’s the best time to get the measure of a person. Most of us realise we’re all in the same boat, give or take a handful of sprogs. So we shuffle along, avoid eye contact, scroll through phones on their last bar, glance obsessively at the bus timetable. But there’s always that one person who takes the missing piece of barrier or sidetracked platform staff as an invitation to throw common courtesy out the window and barge straight for the doors. And all it takes is that one inconsiderate specimen breaking loose, for a dozen more to follow. And my, do they look affronted when you tackle them on it…

Granted, I’m usually the one who ends up screaming like a fishwife. And believe me, the rule breakers and disinterested bus station staff get equal servings of it.

I try to just grit my teeth and plod along, hoping to get a seat. But these days, when that breach of the barrier is the difference between standing squashed far too intimately against 13 strangers with nothing to hold onto except someone else’s wobbly bits, or having to wait another half an hour in the icy wind – well, I tend to get a little worked up.

I become the person that people tell their spouses all about over dinner. And then they laugh gently and shake their heads – because deep down inside they know the “crazy chick who lost her mind completely” could very well be them tomorrow.