An open letter of congratulation and gratitude to all at Gott 2 Tour tour bus company in Cape Town

Hello all at Gott 2 Tour tour bus company in Cape Town,

You don’t know me, and I haven’t “Gott 2 Tour” (LOL!), but I was fortunate enough to witness a selfless act of humanity by one of the drivers of your 16-seat minibus tour vehicles yesterday evening. In the world today, there are far too few selfless acts of humanity and even fewer open letters of congratulation and gratitude recognising these selfless acts of humanity. Perhaps this is why society is falling apart around us. Or perhaps not. Either way, I don’t feel that it could do any harm for me to write you an open letter of congratulation and gratitude recognising the selfless act of humanity that I witnessed last night.

Picture the scene, if you will, on the M5 Southbound carriageway at around 5:15pm. Mmm… messy.
Somehow – bewilderingly – the traffic seems worse than usual. I realise that this doesn’t seem possible, since the upgrade to Koeberg Interchange effectively destroyed any hope of reasonable traffic flow from the N1 south, but believe me, as a regular driver of this route, things were slower than I was used to; a sure sign of some sort of incident up ahead.

Just north of Berkley, alongside the three lanes of near stationary traffic, a tow truck raced past in the yellow lane on the left hand side of the carriageway. One could see the sudden realisation sweep across the rows frustrated drivers as they suddenly realised that there must be an accident on the road ahead.
No relief from the queues, sure, but at least some reason behind the excessive delay and at least some help was on the way to clear the road and get the traffic moving again.

But you know, much like the proverbial London buses, tow trucks never come one at a time. This is actually quite a good thing, because quite often, there is more than one vehicle involved in an accident and all of the damaged parties have to be removed from the carriageway before the horrible congestion can begin to be addressed. And indeed, true to form, along came another tow truck, its shiny black paintwork gleaming in the evening sunshine.

Now, it should be noted that, technically, driving in the yellow lane isn’t actually allowed. I know this, the traffic police know this, the tow truck drivers know this. But in these cases, where everything else is like a parking lot, the cops are willing to overlook this minor transgression in order to get the tow truck to the scene of the accident, get the road cleared and get the literally hundreds of cars stuck behind the crash, moving again. But the law is the law. And those tow truck drivers were breaking it. We know that everyone hates tow trucks: they’re second only to the minibus taxis and way, way ahead of Golden Arrow buses who occupy third place when it comes to inciting extremes of hypertension amongst the populous of Cape Town.

Naughty tow truck drivers. Naughty.

Gott 2 Tour employees reading this should have no fear, however. I know that the driver of your (empty) white minibus – registration GOTT 3 WP – was aware of this naughtiness as well, because his inner superhero kicked in and he swerved across the inside lane and got his wheels across the yellow line to quickly and effectively block the tow truck. In some sort of twisted analogy for Apartheid, the fat, white bus prevented the sleek, black tow truck from going about his business.

Ha! That’ll show him that we won’t stand for his flagrant disregard for the laws of this country! Yeah, he’s going nowhere now, certainly not past all these irritated drivers and to the scene of the accident up ahead where he will hopefully be able to assist with getting the traffic flow going again and get these hundred of people safely and timeously back to their respective families.
And who cares if I am technically breaking the law by driving at 2kph partially in the yellow lane, because I’m stopping the tow truck driver from driving in the yellow lane, because that’s breaking the law.

So weird though, because there was so little recognition of his selfless act of humanity from the other motorists around him. It was almost as if they were thinking, “Dude, don’t be a twat. That tow truck is going to remove the blockage ahead and get me home in time to see my kids before they go to bed”.
Almost exactly like that, it was.

There was a sort of slow motion stand-off going on over to my left. For second after second, Mr Gott et al, your driver used your tour bus (and effectively, your livelihood) as a rolling barricade to prevent the – now understandably irritated – tow truck driver from getting past in the yellow lane. Well done, tour bus driver! You’ve made a stand for the common man, facing up bravely to the tyranny of the tow truck fraternity and merely inconveniencing everyone else on the entire road as a slightly unfortunate by-product.

Eventually though, your driver realised that he couldn’t keep this courageous behaviour up all the way home, as the margins for error were becoming smaller and smaller thanks to the thoroughly pissed off and increasingly desperate tow truck driver, who seemed almost prepared to see if his vehicle would fit through the tempting – but not ever so wide – gap between bus and kerb.
Eventually, a whole 45 seconds after he began his epic crusade, your driver relented, went back to driving legally, and allowed the tow truck past.

But, you know, point made, right? Right.

If there were medals for holding up a law-breaking tow truck in the traffic for almost a minute while slightly breaking the law yourself, your driver would have got one.  Because that’s exactly what he did. But now the bad news, all at Gott 2 Tour tour bus company in Cape Town: I’ve checked, and sadly, there doesn’t seem to be any precedent for awarding medals in this somewhat niche category.

And so it comes down to me to express my congratulations and gratitude in this, an open letter of… er… congratulation and gratitude to all at Gott 2 Tour tour bus company in Cape Town.

I think I can safely speak for all the frustrated motorists on the M5 yesterday evening when I say that I will certainly not forget the actions of your driver.

Heavy task, big ask

It’s been one of those days. Little problems stacking up to make for one big headache:
A loony driver at Koeberg interchange, a rude lady in the parking lot at Canal Walk, experiments not bloody working like they’re supposed to, email issues, poor service from local companies (x3),  the utter, utter disaster that is the “new” M5 south, some “challenging” behaviour from the kids and then finally sitting down to write this blog post and the chair (possibly booby-trapped by my wife?) snapping and sending me left shoulder first into the tiled floor.

It was a full on Nhlanhla Nene moment:

After a day like that, still sitting on the cold, cold floor and with an internet connection which is bordering on the not connected, I trust that you’ll excuse my reluctance to actually produce anything reasonable or worthwhile. Nhlanhla Nene didn’t bother getting up and neither shall I.

Tomorrow will be a better day. Fewer problems. Greater governability.

On lawlessness…

Timothy left this comment on the blog today:

South Africans are LAWLESS. Every day my jaw drops at, in particular, our driving. No indicating, hogging the fast lane, parking anywhere, no servicing and billowing smoke out the back etc etc.
I often wonder what goes on (or doesn’t) in these people’s minds. Is it deliberate, or pure ignorance, or a heady mix?

And I wrote this some time ago:

the laws are there, but the fact that they’re just not enforced means that the driving public feel that they don’t have to obey them.

These facts have been proven further to me on the roads over the last few days.

Firstly, an unsecured toddler on the back seat of a Mazda 323. No, this isn’t a good thing, but sadly it’s something we’re well used to here in SA. So picture my delight when a traffic police car pulls out behind said Mazda. And then picture my disgust when said traffic police officer interacted with the Mazda, not by stopping it and fining the driver to high heaven, but by waving to the child through the back windscreen.

And then today, after a massive road smash on the M5 this evening – one car on its roof on the central reservation – tow trucks, fire engines, ambulances everywhere – and the traffic police, standing by, but not actually doing anything because right then, it was all about the other emergency services doing their thing. Fair enough.

All of which meant that the traffic police officer had plenty of time to chat the incident with the cyclist who had pulled over. I hope it all worked out ok. And it was kind of weird to see a traffic officer and a cyclist discussing… hey… hang on a second. Cyclists aren’t allowed to cycle on the M5 – where were the traffic officers while this conversation was going… hey… hang on a second – they were talking with him.

I don’t think that I need to add much of a conclusion here. Even the more intellectually-challenged of my readers can see where I’m going with this. When even the police don’t give a damn, we have a problem.

Frankly, I’m rather depressed by the whole thing.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, in France

M5 slip road madness

OK – got to keep this one short, because I’m running out of battery and the pictures should really speak for themselves.

Coming home this evening (just before 6pm), as usual, I took the Racecourse Road slip road off the M5 South and joined the traffic at the lights. However, not as usual, when the lights changed, the traffic didn’t move. A quick check up ahead revealed that there had been a accident on the bridge (nothing too serious) and that there was a tow truck about to move the car which was (somehow) blocking  two lanes of the mountain-bound traffic. In doing this, the tow truck was blocking the third lane and so we weren’t going to be going anywhere for a while.

I flicked the engine off and sat back.

And then I looked to my left and there was Jensen Button leaning on a lamppost. Or at least a life size cardboard cutout of him, anyway.

Which was rather surreal.

Since I was engined off and handbraked up, I grabbed my camera and I shot him.

(photographically speaking)

And then I settled back in my seat and listen to John Maytham talking about speed cameras on the M5 or something, which was ironic because I was next to the M5, but I wasn’t actually moving and there was a woman next to the road who was only wearing a g-string and absolutely nothing else.

So, the whole speed camera debate was…. wait… what?

Yes – it was a virtually naked woman making her way purposefully up the grass bank between the freeway and the slip road. Not drunk, I don’t think and certainly completely unabashed. I did what anyone would have  done and shook my head incredulously. Looking around to check that I was not imagining what I was seeing, there were a lot of other drivers with similar incredulous responses. This had instantly topped Jensen for surrealism.

It was then that I realised two things. Firstly, that the mess on the bridge  had been sorted out and we could move again and secondly, that my camera was still right next to me. So I shot her too – probably rather too quickly with hindsight, but firstly, I needed to start driving and secondly, you don’t really want to get any sort of reputation as a pervert amongst the M5 rush hour crew.
The result was this:

Which really wasn’t too bad for an instant, rush-hour, rush-job, point-and-shoot-through-the-window, towards-the-light-Carol-Ann-and-it’s-high-time-you-got-driving-now and does at least illustrate that I’m not making all this up.

As for the woman, she walked up onto the bridge, right past the (incredulous) tow truck crew like they weren’t even there, shouted at some cars and then crossed back from whence she’d come and that was the last I saw of her as I had to negotiate a narrow gap twixt smashed up car and central reservation.

Tomorrow’s journey home will probably not be quite as interesting as tonight’s was, but to be honest, that’s just fine.

Only in South Africa…