I sit under the patchy shade of a withaak in an otherwise shadeless carpark outside the lion park on a Sunday, reading Herman Charles Bosman’s Ramoutsa Road when I think.
“You must never worry about money,” I want to tell Loandi of Cortina Whiplash fame when I see her standing in front of the Spar in Melville, but I don’t get to. She’s visibly agitated and when I ask her why, she tells me she she’s worried about shit and mostly money. I don’t tell her about my newly formed ideas about money and not worrying about it. You must not worry about money. At least not when you have two paid-for grocery bags at your feet, is one of them.
I get a call and speed off, being mostly worried about money.
To once more explore the delicious darknesses inside a woman, isn’t what I think of under the withaak in that carpark. I think it some other time and think it’s weird to think it at that specific time. I think it all the same and smile. I sigh.
I see Loandi a week later at the Xai. She’s in high spirits. She has just returned from a gig in Luanda for which she was paid “big”. I tell her what I wanted to tell her at the Spar and she agrees that one shouldn’t worry about money.
I think of my computer not working and the thoughts going unwritten in the shade of that withaak or here, somewhere else. They go stale here from the time I think them to now, but that’s not weird. Under the withaak I think people are weird, especially when it comes to the usage of my time.
They’re quick to flag me for ‘late arrival, missed ETA’, but have no qualms making me wait 10 minutes outside their doors. I sigh. The Frenchman who hijacked Doni’s trip at the Rosebank Mall is paying me to wait under that withaak. He said he’d be away one hour. I see him again three hours later.
What is slightly weird is when I get a call from one Rani in Melrose Arch. I pick her up and she says we must just wait for a guy who is smoking a smoke. The guy turns out to be my friend Clive. That’s weird in a wonderful way. I tell Clive he can smoke in my car, because I do. They’re on an ‘#AfricaSuccess’ mission and Rani asks me to stop the meter while waiting for them. I find this weird since Barclays is paying for the trip. “It’s only about a 20-minute wait,” Rani tells me. I see her and Clive again an hour later. Long 20 minutes, I think, but it’s a good trip and Rani says she’ll buy me lunch.
This is weird because most Uber passengers turn weird when they see you outside your natural habitat (your car) where you had a pleasant conversation. It is as if they think you’re stalking them. I’ve made the mistake of going to the same restaurant as passengers, not with them, but just because I’m hungry. Their features turn stony, their eyes widen as they try not to see you. It’s as if they’re thinking that I’m there to kill them for giving me a poor rating. It’s weird, I tell you.
What is weirder to me is that my Uber rating keeps on falling despite the fact that my 5-Star ratings keep on climbing. Cleanliness seems to be an issue. Weird that. I almost always shake out the carpets after each trip. I also have the car washed and vacuumed at least once a week.
Another weird thing is the number of unlikely ‘doubles’ I score. I’ve written extensively about my knack for picking up the same person twice in the most unlikely places weeks apart. The weirdest was one Jean whom I picked up at Rosebank Gautrain (nothing weird about that), but when I picked him up again at his home in Pretoria it was weird, also in a good sense. Just try and work out the odds? The mind boggles.
Weirder is double happenings. Take my two bumps in two days after an almost bump-free life. That was weird in a shit sense and I don’t want a repeat of that. It wiped out my cash-flow so completely that I’m reduced to eating garage sandwiches for my sins. This very morning somebody at the Rosebank Gautrain Station asked me if I could help him with jumper leads (thanks for them, Mon Ange, they’ve got me out of two tight spots already when my battery ran down). I help the man and two trips later in Sandringham, a lady passenger asks me for the same service. Sandringham is weird on its own in ways that are beyond me. Anyway, I pick up my first ever Fin ever and the second one the same day. As you know, Fins are spread thinly, even in Finland.
But back to my falling rating. That is weird, for I do the exact same thing for every passenger I get and most people love my work. I get more 5-Star ratings than people who are much better rated. My friend Jan, who is good at that kind of thing, does the math: Out of 1200 rated trips 1006 people gave me 5 stars and then the picture becomes clearer. People (180), who don’t give me 5 stars, actually give me 3 stars and … and fewer! To the 14 people who gave me a 1-Star rating: You’re Uber weird, I think. The problem with the lower rating is that it affects my earning capacity and that makes me worry about money even though I know I shouldn’t.
Then I spend a day in Pretoria. My rating drops dramatically as further proof that Pretoria can’t stand my guts. I get flagged in every category from late arrival to dangerous driving (dangerous driving!) to service (service!) and cleanliness despite the fact that I’ve stopped smoking in my car. Then I think: The people of Pretoria are Uber fucking weird.
PS: I don’t know about this piece. I think it came out weird.