Mere Observations · People

The Other Part of Adulting, Part 2

Rather than dull you with one entire post, showing every possible underwater-part-of-the-iceberg item of adulting, I’m giving it to you in parts. There’s always more to think of, and if you think there’s an unwritten aspect of adulting that I haven’t covered, feel free to let me know. Seriously, please. The other reason I have to write all of this in parts is because I can write forever, but I’m not sure if some of y’all can read forever. If something is too long, will you automatically log-off and leave the page before you’ve gotten halfway? Maybe I should change my blog’s tagline to “For serious readers”.

(Covert and overt) road rage

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Sitting in the front seat with my mother driving is something I’ve become used to lately, especially when getting dropped off at the Gautrain station every morning and being picked up by her in the evening. Most times I don’t have earphones plugged in so I get to listen to the morning radio with my mum and we might have a conversation. She’ll rant about someone who calls into the morning show to talk nonsense, as everyone does in their cars off to work. And everytime – EVERYTIME – we both witness some f**kery on the road that makes us cut our eyes at people, in general, and voice our dissent.

A car behind us will try to overtake, and even accelerate; a truck so big it’s a wonder that it can actually be driven on the roads tries to push us near the side of the road/run us off the road; another truck tries to enter traffic from the side, causing us to miss the green light; fancy, late-model cars weaving between traffic and driving too fast for the day of the week. All very aggravating. And my mother’s response is the same.

“You fool!”

“STUPID! What are you doing?”

“Oh! He’s on his phone!”

“Just because they drive a BMW, they think they own the road! And little do we know, that’s just a rental.”

“Who do you think you are, with your old Corolla?”

Most of the time I share her shock/disgust, other times I laugh at what she says. All jokes aside, my mother has no patience for bad driving or cocky assholes on the road. NONE. One morning, she had said “And people wonder why someone will get out of their car and want to pummel another person’s car.” I agreed.

As a teenager, I read about all the stories of road rage, not understanding how someone could be so compelled to cause bodily harm to another person because of something that happened on the road. As an adult – though I can’t drive yet – I now understand.

I would, of course, have to stop myself from going that far, but you never know what someone is going through. They might have got a final notice on their outstanding utility bill, they might be having a rough patch in their relationship, their children might be acting like assholes, anything. Everyone has problems, and when someone bumps into them from the back, that is the last straw. Everything unravels. Not enough people in South Africa get anger management counselling, so grabbing that spanner in the boot and going to town on someone’s windscreen is the closest thing to relief.

The only type of road rage we hear about from media outlets is the overt type; the aggression, the verbal and physical violence. The one we practice inside the metal framed sanctuaries of our vehicles is covert, where a motorist is just screaming abuse into an echo chamber. If you see a car pass you, passengers inside and they’re talking animatedly, there’s a high chance that they’re bitching about some bellend in a Benz who forgot what ‘right of way’ means at some roundabout miles from where you are now.

Road rage is part of every South African adult’s portion in life. I don’t know if it’s as intense in other countries, but probably not so much if most of the working population have public transport to rely on. Not applicable to Paris, because even though most Parisians and citizens of Ile-de-France use trains and buses to get around, the roads are still full and Parisian motorists are douchebags.

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Photo: Photo Piano!; Flickr A couple of assholes on the road is one thing, but now imagine when every car out there is being driven by one. That’s Paris.

But they don’t get out of their cars to deal with you, they swear at you from the window – you don’t know what they’re saying, but it sounds disgusting – then speed off.

Road rage takes on such an ugly form because as citizens, we feel like our nation has been perpetually falling apart, and combined with other problems in our lives, there are not enough outlets for our frustration. So when someone tries some slick shit on the road, it’s more than we can bear.

Sometimes I feel like, outside of pressing the horn loud or even rolling down the window to shout at the car passing them, motorists make a huge scene inside their cars in the hope that whoever offended them can see the fury as they pass. But they never do. Because people who disobey the road rules and drive however they want – just because there aren’t traffic police nearby – don’t care how you feel about being overtaken or being held back by their slowness.

I’m sure if my mother was akin to profanity, I’d have heard her say words like ‘bitch’, ‘asshole’, even ‘cumface’, as her fingers gripped the steering wheel too tight. If she said ‘asshole’ even once, I wouldn’t be mad. Surprised, though, because my mum using bad words is still alien to me.

Developing a hatred/distrust for most institutions

Before we get into this, ‘institutions’ is a broad term I’m gonna use to refer to banks, retailers, corporations, healthcare facilities, the government, whatever; basically the big boys us individuals rely on to govern us, feed us, finance us and look after our money, protect us, and add value to our lives.

One evening when my family and I were driving home from Soweto, my mum said something quite important (it seems most of our family’s poignant conversations are held in the car). To paraphrase her words, she said that people in South Africa don’t understand the power they hold, as consumers, we don’t use it to its optimum. We allow these big (multi-national) companies to take advantage of us, then run to the newspapers to decry them. Her words were in reference to the huge scandal involving Ford Motors and their exploding Kuga cars. Ford handled the whole thing – which was so bad a motorist had died from his Kuga’s engine exploding back in 2015 – poorly. Even the CEO didn’t have grace.

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So my mum said what she said, and I thought ‘oh word, that’s kinda true’. One slice of the “Everything Hates You” pie (South African edition) is getting screwed over by unscrupulous business owners, banks and even big companies that really should know better. I said this to a colleague, and a long-distance friend; I don’t know what happens to some MNCs (multi-national companies) when they come to South Africa. In their home countries and other western countries, they run a tight ship and make sure they don’t slip. But when they come here, they loosen up and don’t really go the extra mile like they do for their countrymen. Is it because this is Africa? Do they not think we deserve better? Yes and yes.

As much as companies preach about ethics and having a corporate social responsibility section in their annual report, the original purpose of business is to make money. “In its true essence, business cannot be ethical,” said my boyfriend. He’s a smart brotha, so I listen to what he’s got to say, stroking my chin, with intrigue in my eyes. If a company finds a way to make more money, but it involves possibly screwing people over (cutting wages, retrenching people), it’ll still do it. That’s what many companies have done for decades, amirite? *cough cough* Enron *cough cough* Toyota *nk nk nk* ABSA

With all this in mind, it made more sense what my mum said. Because South African consumers – which is all of us – don’t understand that we could bring institutions down to their knees with enough prodding, companies/banks/the government can continue to take advantage of us, without feeling bad about it. We’re too complacent and probably too lazy to think about hitting back at them. Nope, we’ll just leave a passive-aggressive Hello Peter review about a company that slighted us, then leave it at that.

Perhaps our reluctance to take companies to task for their anti-ethics stems from not knowing our rights as consumers. Nobody’s prepared to read through the law to know how it protects them in that context. Too time-consuming. The last time I even read anything about the Consumer Rights Act was more than two years ago in a Business Law class, and it was a condensed version.

So because of this, feeling small as individuals, we always expect to be treated poorly by the banks, retailers, hospitals, government subsidiaries, the government itself and companies in the private sector, as though it’s our lot in life as people trapped in capitalism. Well, most of us, excluding White people. Yoh, White people don’t stand for anything bad, minor as it may be.

Two years ago, I was at a Dis-Chem store, purchasing some coconut oil (I had just done the big chop, okay?). I got in the line for the tills, and was two people away from the front when some shit unfolded up at the tills. A White woman was raising hell. I couldn’t hear what she was saying, but she was not having it. Whatever ‘it’ was. The cashiers were looking at her like ‘is u SEARS’, some giggling among themselves at her ranting. That made her even angrier, that they were not taking her seriously. I almost burst out laughing when she started demanding to speak to the manager.

White people, like y’all really do this? Ask for the manager? And when the manager is among the people you are angry at, what do you do then? Hewu…

I still don’t know what could’ve possibly set her off, but I did catch a bit of what she said: “These people are now speaking in their language”. Okay, San-Marie, chill. I got to a till, paid for my things and left, absolutely amused by how haughty White South Africans be, out in these streets.

Long queues

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You think you know long queues. Uh uh bih, you have no idea how long a queue can get in Africa. My mum and I were dropping my youngest sister off at school and we were passing through the town centre going back and spotted easily the longest line of desolate souls I’ve ever seen in my life. Even my mum hollered “Yoh!”. Then she said, “They must be giving away something free at the municipal building. Nobody ever lines up like this – around the block! – to pay their water bills.” LOL.

That queue went from the entrance of the municipal building, past the parking lot in front of the building, along the side of the road we were perpendicular to, and back around the corner of that block. I prayed to any deity that was on the line that I may never find myself in such a queue or be so desperate as to get in one.

Queues are tests of endurance that can be merely passed as long as you have an MP3 player, your phone, and sturdy leg bones. In South Africa, you don’t stand in a queue, you’re sentenced to one. You do not escape unless you get to the front or if you give up and leave, to which those behind you will rejoice. Even White people, some of who often behave in public as if it’s still apartheid, stomp down their pride and stand quietly in a queue. Some Black people, especially in rural areas, stand too close whilst queueing; I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt a boob of a woman standing behind me grazing my back. Or even hearing someone breathe behind me despite me wearing earphones.

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Personal space, sis.

Whether this is already a quirky quote that someone out there in the world has come up with or not, I swear; most of an adult’s life is spent in a queue. Half of the time I’m at a bank is spent waiting for my number to be called, only to be told I must go to the teller area where I must line up and wait for a teller to be available (since banks started to furnish their branches like they’re fancy lounges).

Despite my loathe of queues, I try to act like I don’t mind being in one, because I don’t wanna seem uppity or like I’m too good to be standing there. It helps that I bring my iPod wherever I go, so I can just listen to music while my eyes wander, always going back to the screen that will one day read my number.

Long queues exist to remind every adult that ‘It doesn’t matter how important you think you are in your life circles or in your head, if you need something that a lot of people need as well, you have to wait in line for it. You ain’t special.’

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