Taking last minute of photos of the bridge as I left Steytlerville, I noticed a young ‘coloured’ man on the road waiting for a lift out of what for him, had been a dead end – I mean even more of a dead end than the road was – he had come to look for work.
No way could I drive past him without my conscious being troubled all the way back to PE. There is no train, there are no buses, there will be only me all day …
And I hear my ‘South African family’ gasp at the thought of my picking up a hitchhiker. But how could I not? I trust my instincts and He knows my motives and so far neither have let me down 🙏🏻
And smart blonde that I am👍🏻😜 I made him sit in front so I could ‘keep an eye on him’ 😜😳👀👁
I stopped and asked where he was going – a rather rhetorical question since wherever it was, this was the only road either he or I could take. This was lucky because while I am pretty much bilingual, the cape coloured lingo sometimes leaves me flummoxed.😂😂. And this was one of those sometimes. I had no idea where it was he was going to.
My travelling companion wore the uniform green ABSA Springbok shirt that is almost a uniform in this corner of the world; a single earring, floppy hat, slops and he had with him a kit bag – bulging, split and tied together with rope – containing all his worldly possessions. There was also The Phone in his pocket – I worked that one out cause I could hear music coming from his left leg as he leaned through the window to talk to me.
The difficulty in communicating wasn’t entirely because I couldn’t speak the lingo or understand it. Ja Mevrou, Née Mevrou, Dankie Mevrou were all quite clear. But pretty much anything beyond that was lost through the gap – a large gap in his teeth. Well, the truth is there actually weren’t any teeth that I could see.
There was a time when no front teeth was considered attractive amongst Coloureds, but whether that is still the case, or this was another physical indication of the poverty I saw all around, I cannot say.
Either way, I had my ears and brain very focussed as I tried to chat and then gave up as I drove us to wherever, when, I presumed he would say – let me off here please (or similar 😜)
He is 26 years old and had been looking for work since he was 14. The longest job he had been offered was 6 months – he gushed (or I think he did) about how wonderful that had been – packing lemoene in Kirkwood. Worked for ‘n onderwys’ (teacher) but only for two weeks cause he left his holiday home to go back to teach and December is too far away to wait for him to come back for two weeks.
Travelling on my own allowed me to ‘sing’ at the top of my voice or talk to myself and even answer myself . This would not work however with a travelling companion, so I tried the radio which could not ‘find a channel’ in the Karoo. I doubted my classical music would be a hit and instead invited him to use his phone. And so we travelled listening to, not rap or heavy metal, which would not have surprised me, but tikkie draai musiek and Afrikaanse liekies – not quite Sarie Maree but close enough.
Contained, each with our own thoughts.
He’s travelling 180km because he heard there is work there – two days work mind you. He had travelled to Steytlerville for the same reason. But if there was work there it had long since been completed by someone else.
I probably should be nervous of him – people always tell me I’m mad, the things I do.
He seems ‘neutral’ enough – was going to say harmless, but that sounds like a word to use for an animal.
A Simple Twist of Fate
– what if I was born Coloured in the Karoo
– would someone give me a lift from nowhere to hopefully somewhere?
His. I can only guess
I’m going 180km because I heard there was work there. Never mind that I travelled to Steytlerville for the same reason. This one may be the one ….. Even if a weeks work.
A Simple Twist of Fate
– what if I was born White, in Uitenhage, Port Elizabeth or even Johannesburg.
– would I have a Chevy spark or a Kia Rio
And I waited for him to say ‘hier Mevrou’
Long after the turn off to Uitenhage – someone’s radar had been switched off – could equally have been mine – so back we went to the turn off and there I left my travelling companion with some Rands (dollars) and best wishes ….
The future? Itinerant worker chasing rumours of employment, with dreams and prospects fading as more younger people join in the same search for a decreasing job pool. Security- plans-place to call home ( and I thought I had a problem with home😂😂) health, community?
A Simple Twist of Fate
He went his way and I drove on to family, food, drink, phone charger, and a life I can more or less plan.
The PE wind came up and my little white car, with whom I had negotiated a truce – third and fifth gear agreed to a clear separation, so we ambled more happily at 100km/hr now, nothing over though or those wheels again 😂were blown about on the freeway.
The scrub along the way had a less than usually bedraggled appearance :- hundreds of coloured plastic bags were caught in them and filled with the wind so they looked like giant coloured flowers
I so wanted to stop and take a photo but would probably have been blown to Cape Town and without my toothbrush – well that wouldn’t do. 😜