Uber Tales (22)

Uber Loops

I wake up and the texture of the light is just right. I don’t set an alarm. I just check out the texture of the light on my wall and get up to that. If it has the texture of molasses I sleep on. If it has the texture of honey I’m losing money. It has to have the texture of thinned milk, a white blueishness. I once set an alarm just to make sure that I didn’t wake up too early, but that didn’t work.

My sleeping cycles should make me healthy, wealthy, happy and wise, they say. Who are they anyway? I don’t know and I don’t really care. My sleeping and waking pattern is just an encapsulation of other loops within loops.

Take the Rosebank Gautrain loop as an example. I park laboriously, reversing into the narrow space between the other car parked too close to the line and the pillar. I hate reversing. It feels so much like going backwards, yet I do an awful lot of it these days. Reversing and doing U-turns are what I do and I put it on record that I don’t like either.

But back to Rosebank. I park in reverse so as to see what is going on in front of me. As soon as I switch off my engine, I get a call. Is it going to be the Fricker Road, Wanderers Office Park or Vox Telecom loop, I wonder? They’re all within about 3km range from the station. It’s Fricker Rd. Or Wanderers. Or Vox Telecom. I call it my holding loop. It keeps me busy when everything else is quiet. Busy is good, they say. Busy is a loop by itself.

It’s easy to get stuck in a loop and conversely difficult to get out of one. If you’re in a loop you have to consciously drive out of it otherwise you can easily do a record-breaking day of 36 minimum fare trips for virtually no real income. That feels like work and I don’t like anything that feels like work. My work doesn’t feel like work most of the time. It just is.

When I pick somebody up in a crappy area, I’m almost sure to drop them off in the same kind or worse. Mostly worse. I have to drive out of the shitty area before getting stuck in a loop of 20-buck minimum fare cash trips. The same goes for the middle-class and rich areas. There, I hang around, but still. Still like a vulture in the blue sky wanting your dead buck.

The ant goes his ways and back to the place he stays. The mount, the mound and all around. Ever busy, ever round is the loop.

Mine is not so much different, but I know my shit. I sit and wait for it every morning. Every morning I wait for a shit. A good shit trumps everything in my business. One does not need the need for a good shit on the road. Is that a political statement? Is there a good Trump that shits everything? One would not know. I know when it’s time to break out of a loop, especially a shitty one. I just go. Shit, no shit, I go. I must.

“What does it mean?” I ask Chuck. He says he’s busy. “Busy with what?” I ask. “Stitching something together,” he says smugly. “What?” “Moments.” “I hope they’re memorable moments?” “Nope, for your hope, just random moments. They call it life.” He flicks his cigarette ash and misses the ashtray by a mile in that annoying way of his. “Ashes to ashes,” he adds as if it means something. I sigh.

“It’s like Teazer’s, a Mobius Strip. You can only see from where you are sitting, but you can’t ever grasp anything beyond the horizon you’ll never see,” he explains. ”I see,” I say and sigh again.

Then it’s another day. The government steals from the people. The shit hits the fan. I wait for a shit

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Chuckv

March 20th

Uncategorized

Laudibau on Joburg (Guest Blog)

Laura Tensen holds a doctorate in animal genetics and works at the University of Johannesburg. She is a good friend of mine who infrequently writes a blog here: https://lauratensen.wordpress.com/   I republish her latest because it cannot be said enough.

Life as a Joburger

I’m going to tell you a little story about Johannesburg. Partly informative and partly as a warning, cause life ain’t always easy here as a foreigner. I think I’ve lived here long enough to give my honest opinion about this city, and I would like to take this opportunity to make a few things very clear for other visitors. I mainly want to warn people that come to Jozi with certain expectations, when they are crazy enough to visit this city in the first place. Jeh, Africa ain’t for sissies and Joburg definitely ain’t.

Firstly, let’s talk about crime. People love talking about crime in South Africa and Johannesburg has been a specifically hot item. Tourist agencies and travel guides will tell you to avoid Joburg by all means, and rather spend some extra hours on a detour when Joburg is on your path. So I would like to state the following: you will be very, very disappointed when you do dare to visit Johannesburg and expect crime, as it is largely absent. I have lived here for 4 years and have not yet looked death in the eye. To make matters worse: I’ve had zero crime-related encounters thus far, none. No guns, no muggings, no harassments whatsoever. It is actually very likely you will leave this city without any cool stories to tell your friends at home. To illustrate: those many “I was shot in Joburg” T-shirts and posters often refer to photography, as all these people have actually never been shot. It is highly disappointing for some people.

A second issue I would like to warn tourists about: people in Joburg are extremely nice. They tend to have small conversations with strangers, help them out whenever needed, invite them for a drink at their table, or even open their doors to them. The strangest thing is that these Joburgers want nothing more from you than a nice chat, and will leave you alone afterwards. This is unheard of in many European cultures and might take some getting-used to. Joburgers also laugh a lot and make jokes that will make other people laugh. For strangers visiting this city it might be considered uncomfortable, because they are not used to such open and genuine human interactions.

Moreover, people that sympathize with racism and think South Africa is the place to be will be distraught when visiting Joburg. Joburg is actually very mixed and in most places people get along so happily, no matter what race, age or background they represent. It is even okay to be gay or transsexual. Joburg people seem to just like being in the presence of other nice people, no matter how different they are. So please be aware of this.

Another thing I noticed about Joburgers is that they don’t care how you look or what you wear, which might be shocking to foreign visitors. They come all this way from fashionable Europe and no-one even notices their designer dress, which is not always appreciated. Because people don’t really focus on looks in Joburg, they tend to build more character. This can cause conflict, as many fashionable visitors from abroad have never worked on their character. So if you solely depend on your looks, Joburg might not be the place for you. I have also seen disappointed visitors that were told to never wear jeans, bags or jewellery in Joburg because it will attract crime. You will find out that all people in Joburg wear these items without any problems.

Then let’s move on to the aesthetics of Johannesburg. People often picture a large, dark city with high buildings and dirty streets. So if this is your thing, I’m gonna have to disappoint once more. Only few parts of Joburg are dark and dirty, and the part of the city that has high buildings is only very small. In fact, most of Joburg is hidden amongst trees, only has one-store buildings, and many parks and dams. Highly disappointing.

Even the traffic is different in this bad-ass city. Traffic rules do exist but are not considered to be there for our own safety. Traffic lights, referred to as robots, cheer up the streets in the same way as Christmas lights do, but are not to be taken too seriously. The same goes for indicator lights on cars. They look nice when flashed, but rarely serve the purpose of showing other drivers what direction one is heading. There are also many stop signs and roundabouts in this city, and they are used in whatever way suits the driver at the moment. When traffic rules are violated you don’t have to worry about police cars too much. Well, not more than usual that is. Because in Joburg, the police is your enemy even when you do nothing wrong. They always find something to fine you for, so you might as well give them some value for your money. I have occasionally created life threatening situations in traffic just to avoid an encounter with the police in a road-block further down the road. Pretty bad-ass.

Another thing I want to address about Joburg is that the weather is exceptionally nice. I come from the Netherlands where people bitch and moan about the weather all the time, and I felt uneasy with the lack of bad weather in Jozi when I moved here. I had nothing left to moan about. It’s never too hot and rarely too cold, and it’s sunny most of the time. Very annoying. To make matters worse: when it does storm it storms so bad that there is literally no time to complain about the weather. When roads are flooding, roofs are falling and bridges are collapsing, you just focus on making it home alive. And the next day it’s sunny and 30 degrees again, which makes it so inappropriate to moan about the weather the day before.

The last good advice I want to give to my fellow Joburg visitors is that there is no need to spend too much money here. People are often advised to only book the fanciest hotels, to only dine in restaurants with ultimate security, and to never walk around but rather stay in bullet-proof taxis. It’s not that fancy hotels aren’t nice, but so are cute guest houses of which we have many. And we have many lovely restaurants that sell the finest food for little money. And they even have outside tables, right on the street, surrounded by plants. Because Joburg has many nice plants. And although taxis are nice to get around with, you can even walk in Joburg; in fact we do it all the time! And we have bicycle lanes, and people actually cycle around too! And we have city parks where you can picnic without bringing armed protection. And there is a lot of street art too. There are even walls with the most stunning graffiti without a single drug dealer around. We also have many events with live music, food markets and performances with a zero-terrorism record.

So my conclusion: Joburg is pretty bad-ass and it takes some getting-used to, but once you do it’s a pretty damn good city.

 

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Chuckv

January 30th

Uncategorized

Uber Tales (21)

Uber Principles

They shuffle, sweat and bulge by, they call it jogging, the New Year’s Resolutions. I sit under my tree and stare at them or nothing. My New Year’s resolution is to sit and stare less and write more. The universe applauds action, not thoughts I was once told in one of those self-improvement courses that H sent me on. Is writing action? Is the universe a sentient being with a zillion little hands it can clap every time I open my laptop and start writing a sentence?

The problem with writing in the car, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, is that it’s difficult to maintain a train of thought when the universe applauds by giving you a call just as soon as you begin the action of writing. It is downright dangerous to write in the sense that I tend to continue writing in my head while driving instead of focusing all my faculties on the road.

Safety is, as it should be, my primary priority and thus I have developed certain principles according to which I don’t drive. The obvious one is DDD (Don’t Drive Drunk). Nobody argues with that. DDT (Don’t Drive Tired) also almost goes without saying, yet there are times when I have to argue with Chuck about quitting the day R250 short of target. What constitutes ‘legitimate tiredness’ and what is simple laziness? I consider switching the wipers on instead of the indicator as a sign of legitimate tiredness. Turning left when Jessica says ‘turn right’ towards the end of the day is another. Legitimate tiredness normally sets in as soon as I’ve reached my daily target or when I’ve covered 250km or so.

After my break, I discovered a different kind of tiredness of which I’m not convinced of the legitimacy. It consists of Chuck and I telling each other repeatedly: “We can’t afford another setback now. We simply can’t.” My alternator is in the process of packing up. I sigh and Stop on Slopes (the SOS principle?!).

Just keep going…

When I do the wiper thing or the left-right confusion early in the day, it may be a sign of my general directionally challenged being, or a sign of DDH (Don’t Drive Hungry). When I’m hungry I don’t play serendipity dice. I go offline to eat a garage sandwich. Gone are the halcyon days of sit-down lunches in fancy restaurants. My cash flow is as tight as the clothes of the New Year’s Resolutions jogging by. I sigh. I’m trying to gain weight and eat chocolates while I wait on my shady slopes. I sigh again.

There are other principles too, but since they do not directly affect your safety, I’ll just mention them in passing. There is the KIP principle (Keys in Pocket) and the PIP principle (Phone in Pocket). These do affect you indirectly because without them it would be impossible to drive at all and thus have the pleasure of picking you up. There is also the NEOR principle (No Electronics on Roof). The dent on the corner of my computer tells that story eloquently enough.

But back to the writing bit. I have to bite the bullet and write despite it being in contravention of the DDW principle (Don’t Drive Writing) of not driving. The writing in my head mostly jus make me miss a turn-off or two, so forgive me. It could also have been Don’t Drive Worried and there’s nothing I can do about that either.

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Chuckv

January 21st

Uncategorized

Uber Tales (20)

Uber Thanks

I see the sea stretching before me, blue across the bay to the bluff and beyond while the wind winds it up to a light white break on the near shore. I’m inspired you see, but my pal Al butts in to wipe the table and with it, my inspiration about the blue sky and the misty mountain across the bay. It’s the Outeniqua range as seen from Mossel Bay and that’s all I can tell you now. A Kubla Khan moment. What wonders could I have written from that Xanadu?

At least my table is clean with the exception of one spot, which Al missed and which now bothers me. Should I clean it or should I wait for Al to come back and show it to him?

Now I just sit and stare. My friends, Al and his lovely wife Sal are publicity shy so I can’t thank them in public for affording me the opportunity to just sit here and stare across the bay. I thank them anyway. They’re the salt of the earth and the sea and the blue sky where birds hover and fly. You see I can ill afford not to thank them. They’re so grounded they could afford to take me from my daily grind. The travails of the poor can tax the rich, but Al and Sal can afford it. I could not really afford taking this break, but on a different level, I really couldn’t afford not to take it. I ran the risk of breaking.

A little two-car tourist train runs from the ‘Fork&Train’ restaurant in Mossel Bay to Hartenbos and back. The last car is named ‘Dick’. This is a prime whale watching spot. My first bet is that the other one must be ‘Moby’. It’s ‘Tom’. I sigh. Al tells me that Harry died in a hurry with people getting poorer and the season shorter. Al says, and the man from Hartenbos whom I meet in the smoking section of the Wimpy at the George Airport concurs, it’s now only two weeks long whereas last year it was three.

It’s now time to reflect on years past and contemplate the year ahead, which may well be a watershed. I thus reflect that at the same time in 2015, I had no money and no plan except suicide, if you can call that a plan. I limped into 2016, with a leaky and listing plan and a stealing driver driving my Uber car and me to distraction. At least I have an Uber car now.

Now I have a car and many plans from merchandising to ChuckV TV of which you have witnessed the humble beginnings, but for now I’m content just to sit here and drink a beer and stare. Sometimes I sigh contentedly, sometimes I burp in the same way, but mostly I just sit here and stare across the bay.

Thank you again, Al and Sal for the calm you brought at the end of all the troubled times. Now I can also thank (in no specific order) you: Jan, Vince, Heidi, John, Jax, the other Heidi, George, Eric, Karla, Heste, Danie, Maaaretjie (jy weet wat ek bedoel), Bert, Scotty, Jordaan, Jorrie, Francois, Gerda, Hanny, Kevin, Abby, Sweet Baby Jesus, Jana, the Girl From Korea, the other Jana, Fanie, Harvey, Gallie, Izak, Delme, Laura, Mark S, Mon Ange, Ollie, The Judge, the Girl Who Said So, Luke, Karimba and all the other friends who stood by me in some way or another when setback upon setback set me back and my spirits were low and my bank account lower. Thank you all and those whose names escaped me. I’m still standing because of you.

 

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Chuckv

January 8th

Uncategorized

Uber Tales (19)

Uber December

It’s dead quiet. The eternal waiting is killing me. It makes me panic about money and stuff. I must make a plan. I play serendipity dice: If I make it home from where I’m sitting right now without getting a call, I should rather work on my book. Am I writing a book? If I do a pick-up in Joburg CBD, it would be a good one. I never do pick-ups in CBDs. Not Sandton, not Joburg, not Pretoria. There are some other areas too, but definitely not those three. The reason is simple. Pick-ups there are usually short trips in heavy traffic. They kill my feet.

I pick up Cee in Sandton on Christmas Eve. She had to cut short her holiday in Plett to attend to a ‘major family crisis’ at home in Botswana. She is a beautiful woman dressed accordingly. I toy with the idea of asking about the nature of the major family crisis. I don’t. I’m her maiden Uber trip.

I head home again. I get a trip to the airport. Not a bad thing on a quiet day. A very good thing indeed and I’ve got another one booked with my friend Jeanne and her dogs. I play serendipity dice straight from the airport, heading home through the suburbs, not on the highway. I’m 13km out when I get a call from one Jay. I pick him up, but it’s not him. It’s his father Bee. Bee likes me and retains my services for an hour and a half and six trips. It’s like a trip to the airport except that it leaves me close to Jeanne when it finally ends. The dice are falling right.

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Waiting is like watching trees grow…

The dice can fall wrong too. I pick up Bongani in the Joburg CBD. It’s a minimum fare short cash trip. It’s he worst kind. First, you have to find the fucker. A lot of Uber users think it’s best to look for their Ubers by standing behind a pillar with their backs to the street looking at their phones. I finally find Bongani behind his pillar and he takes me to Wanderers Street. That’s about as bad as it gets. The minibus taxis are flowing like a whitewater river in flood. It’s scary. I stop playing serendipity dice in the CBD. The odds are stacked against anything serendipitous happening there.

It gets even quieter. I get home and work on the book. I’ll probably get no income from that either but it keeps me from panicking about money and shit. I take a day off and make good progress. I hit the road again. My car’s battery is flat. My phone’s battery won’t charge and the garage door is fucked. I sigh and take another day off. This time I just drink and make merry with my sister Hesté. The dice have spoken. I’m feeling like Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem:

Not, I’ll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee; 

Not untwist — slack they may be — these last strands of man 

In me ór, most weary, cry I can no more. I can; 

Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be. 

I get the phone to charge, I start my car and Hesté and I manhandle the door. My first trip is to the airport. I play serendipity dice with a twist from Barbara Road 24km out through the suburbs. It’s sort of adaptation of my normal strategy of sitting under shady trees waiting for 15 minutes and driving 3km. This time I just stop for a smoke and drive the 3km. It doesn’t feel like waiting.

I smoke in Sebenza, which translates into ‘work’. I smoke in Hurleyvale. I smoke in Edenvale where I notice that despite the city seemingly being empty of humans, Home Affairs still managed to conjure up a long queue of the same outside their offices. I smoke in Senderwood, Glenhazel or Bedford Gardens and finally Norwood. Then I come home to work on my book.

I drop off Cee and help her with her luggage. She is very happy that her maiden Uber trip was with me, she tells me. I wish her luck with her family crisis. That’s always odd for me to wish somebody luck with a crisis or painful situation. I find the Afrikaans ‘sterkte’ or French ‘courage’ much better. Fortunately Cee is Afrikaans so I don’t have to deal with the odd ‘luck’. She thanks me and gives me a R100 tip. I take it. I’ll take any money now. I drive off and wonder whether I should’ve asked her about the nature of her ‘major family crisis’. Probably not, I think as I play serendipity dice anew.

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Chuckv

December 29th

Uncategorized

Uber Tales (18)

Uber Musings

I sit under pleasant trees in pleasant suburbs having driven mostly pleasant people there. I smoke cigarettes thinking about something to write. I end up just smoking cigarettes. This is what I do now. I sit under pleasant trees trying to think a thought. I sometimes get one, but not now. Now I just sit. My fingers do not touch the keyboard of my computer. I light another smoke.

“What do you blog about?” my passengers ask when I refer them to my ‘world famous blog’. At first I hum and ha about ‘nothing and everything’. Then I think I’m clever and say: “Go to chuckv.co.za and see for yourself.” Ten percent of my passengers do not like that ‘attitude’ from an Uber driver and give me a 1-star rating. Uber drivers must not have attitude. I must make amends. I can’t go around with a rating of 4.63. I hide my food in my UberEats bag. I’ve never used it for Uber. Uber drivers are not supposed to eat or have food in their car boots.

My friend Bert says I must dress better. I put on chinos and a golf shirt. It kinda works. I go up to 4.67. Thanks Bert. I sit in Springs, thinking of Bert and all the things he did for South African music. From Springs. The kindness and moral generosity he and the Voelvry tour of that year way back brought me.

I sit under a tree on Wankie Street in Springs, thinking I must write something. I light a smoke instead when I get a call. Springs is good to me. It takes me back to Parktown and then my friend Vince’s birthday celebration at the Radium Beerhall a mere 5.6km away. Should I write about that or the fact that I told Vince that I wouldn’t be able to attend having to work? I wonder.

The fact that I resist the temptation to call it a day by 1pm on the sweltering Saturday that follows may also warrant some kind of essay. I walk into the Xai to refresh my ice with which I keep the water I keep for my guests cold. Majec, the Polish cellist is sitting there with a tall fresh golden beer of such a handsome aspect that … I resist and step back into the blazing sun.

my-kind-of-street

My kind of street…

Once back in my boiling car I immediately get a call. This time it’s from my good acquaintance Richard, who also happens to enter my world of ‘doubles’. “He’s probably going to the Rosebank Gautrain station,” I think while driving to his house. That will take me firmly out of the temptation zone that is Melville.

Richard appears, not lugging luggage, but bearing a bunch of flowers and a bottle of booze. He’s going to a party at my friend Bert’s house. I sigh. The gods or whatever has spoken. I think of writing something about that, but light a smoke instead. As an atheist I’m surprised by the serendipities attending my Uber activities with such regularity. What is one to make of them? I light up a smoke and sip on Bert’s excellent G&T.

Shall I rather discuss the success of my holiday strategy? Maybe I could make something of that? So far sitting in leafy suburbs and avoiding the busy areas has been lucrative. My average waiting time has increased from 10-15 minutes to 20-30 minutes, but not much else has changed except that my feet no longer hurt from Sandton and Joburg CBD traffic. Shall I write about that? Nope. It’s too boring.

“So what do you write about?” a passenger asks. Then it strikes me. Hiding in plain sight. There it is! I write about ‘My South Africa’. It’s not the South Africa going to hell in a hand-basket you read about in the papers. It’s not the near Banana Republic you hear about everywhere.

It is the one where I know all the potholes and missing manhole covers personally. Yes, they are actually so few that after a hard storm you drive along and spot a new one, you know it’s new and make a mental note of it. It is the one with the many speedbumps I also know personally (even an atheist can tell you they’re the work of Satan without blanching). It is the one with racial harmony in my car and in the bar I frequent. It is the South Africa of the non-event where I sit under pleasant trees in pleasant suburbs having driven mostly pleasant people there with my only concern being if I should make my next stop Parkwood or Parkview?

In Craighall Park, I light another smoke, satisfied that I can write, right?

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Chuckv

December 20th

Uncategorized

Uber Tales 17

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.
 4-chuckv-changing-lives-with-chuckv

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.

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Weird…

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.    

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Chuckv

November 6th

Uncategorized

Uber Tales (16)

My Uber Holiday

I stand on my stoep waiting for Sunday’s half Panini to reheat. I’m at a loose end as to what to do. Should I shit in my one hand or want in the other and see which fills up first? I cannot decide. Uber has deactivated my account for want of the uploading of a document. I shit you not. This is a double system failure. I can’t upload it from my side and despite their assurances that they would do it, they disconnect me on a Sunday of all days. Sundays are my favourites for ubering.

My phone rings, so I go to Smithfield. I forget the half Panini, which my newfound old friend Luke bought me on the Uberless Sunday. The Panini has nothing to do with this story. I just want to thank Luke and his lovely wife Carinda for making my uber broken Sunday sweet. “I shall not panic about my Uber disconnection, but rather declare this to be a holiday with you,” I tell them.

So I go to Smithfield. I don’t go to Smithfield, I race there with a certain grimness of aspect. The road is straight as an arrow and I shoot down it at 160. I don’t usually do this, race to a place at 160. I don’t usually go to Smithfield either, but these are strange times and I want to reach Smithfield before nightfall.

I race to Smithfield at the behest of my friend Heidi. She wants to know whether Smithfield is a happening town or just another dump dying on the northern edge of the Karoo. I want to know this too. One can’t know enough.

smithfield

There are certain scientific criteria to determine whether a Karoo or any other rural town in South Africa is a dying dump or happening. As it happens, I am the one who established the scientific method to make such judgments. One cannot afford to be subjective. I reach Smithfield just before nightfall and start applying my method. Is there an open bar? Is anything apart from the filling station open on a Monday night? Is there a panelbeater?

Smithfield succeeds on the first score and I settle down in Buckley’s. Things are looking good, but the acid test is yet to come. “Is there a gay couple in Smithfield,” I enquire of the owner of Buckley’s, Martin. “There are three and then me,” he says gaily. However, there’s no panelbeater, but that’s okay. So that settles it: Smithfield is happening.

Other observations bear this out. There are no palisades around the church. Martin tells me that Buckley’s isn’t the only place open on a Monday night, there are two more. That’s really something. I’m also not the only customer in Buckley’s on a Monday night. The food is good. The town is neat and clean and devoid of tatty traders from places as far afield as Thailand or Timbuktu. There’s a golf course! How much more happening do you need?

I file my report to Heidi: Smithfield is happening.

Then I leave Buckley’s and go and sit on the stoep of the house Heidi is thinking of buying. The silence is so sweet you can meet the stars. You can see them personally. They stare down on you from blue times forgotten, says the lone cricket in their light while the drought dries your thoughts into thinking.

I leave Smithfield slowly and smile. My phone rings, so I go to Clarens. I find a panelbeater in Bethlehem and extend my holiday in the company of Danie and Marietjie in Clarens. Someone spots me in Bethlehem and informs my cousin Francois in Reitz. My phone rings so I’ll go to Reitz next. I think.

 

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Chuckv

October 5th

Uncategorized

Uber Tales (15)

Uber So

So, I cruise down Seam Street in Sunninghill or Sandringham looking for a solid shady spot in a silent side-street to sit in when I notice that there are no side-streets anymore. Then a thought occurs to me. It isn’t much of a thought, but still here it is. I’m slightly startled to think that all side-streets have been usurped by the uninviting gates of security complexes.

It isn’t simply the lack of shady spots and side-streets that so upset me, it is also my sadly sagging ratings that sours my day. What do some people want? Sure, I can see some reason to complain about my navigational skills or lack thereof. I suck at it. I often take left to mean right and vice versa, I’m ashamed to say, but so it is. However, if you complain about my super smooth and distinctly Parisian style of driving, saying it is dangerous and my distinctly non-Parisian style of service, saying it’s not there, I’m seriously concerned about your sense of self and of humanity. I want to call you a so-and-so, but I shan’t.

So, Uber drivers are human too. They also have worries and concerns and the traffic is the least of them. Once again I have to say the rating is seriously serious. Think twice before you give less (I know it’s a solecism) than 5-stars.

brake-report

Dangerous driver? Methinks not.

I can also give you as passenger some pointers to improve your rating. First of all, be easy to find. If you sitting in a security complex where they consider taking DNA samples of anybody who isn’t a resident communicate with the gate and don’t make me phone to find your unit number. That gets you a two. Secondly, don’t slam my door and so I can go on, but I won’t lest I sound hissy.

With that off my breast, let me keep you abreast of my plans. My Facebook page UberchuckV is making great strides to greatness. It now stands at almost 2600 likes, not bad after two months, but soon it will soar, methinks. The plan is to allow my passengers to live-stream their trips back to the page and tell their several thousand friends they’re doing so when they’re doing so. I’m sure you can see how the selfie generation will suck that up.

Step two of the plan is to seek some form of sponsorship, a car or something. Say what? Yes, an automatic car, no less. See? I won’t repeat the sorry story of my sore feet, save to say they’re still sore and the situation increasingly sucks as I now start my days with sore feet. So say what you want, I think my plan is superb.

So, I’m sitting in a shady spot in a silent side-street somewhere thinking of the girl who is no longer speaking to me and whose name doesn’t start with an ‘S’. To the girl who said: “So, Chuck?” I say sorry. It’s such a pity her name doesn’t start with an ‘S’ and so I conclude this missive.

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Chuckv

September 27th

Uncategorized

Uber Tales (14)

Uber Zen Branding

“I also didn’t know I had problems until Sunday morning in Kempton Park,” I reply to Petro. “That’s a beautiful opening line for a novel,” her friend Steven says. “I don’t write novels. I’m into short form,” I say.

The day is cold and overcast. It’s blustery too. A harbinger of rain? I hope. Who knows? Good weather for ubering, but my car is having its panels beaten. “How long before ‘uber’ becomes a regular English verb?” I wonder. “To uber, or not to uber? Is that the question?” I wonder.

I look at the car after its first day at the panel beater. “It’s a work in progress,” Koen, the panel beater says somewhat apologetically. I decide not to uber. The car looks like something patched together in a backyard in Bosmont.

“I’m spending money I’m not earning, but I decided that it would be bad for my brand to pick up people in that.” “Bravo,” says Steve, the lecturer in brands. “Why didn’t you let the insurance take care of that?” Petro asks. “I had passengers to take care of first and besides, I’m new to the whole insurance and financed car thing. I also vastly underestimated the cost of panel beating.” “At your age? That’s quite something.” “Should I be proud or ashamed?” I wonder.

Sir Eric comes along and we go through our little ritual. “King Chuck.” He bows an elaborate bow. “Greetings, Sir Eric, I trust calm has been restored to the provinces?” With a raised eyebrow, I shoot him a quizzical glance. “For the time being, My King.” “Then hasten back there and see that it stays so before we need to strike another blow.” “That is my current errand, My King,” Sir Eric blows off.

Chuck in Car

ChuckV: The Brand

“Everything is so fucking banal. Banal, banal! Thank you for existing,” says Petro. Best compliment ever. She kisses me. “I should trim my mustache,” I think.

I’m slightly (and even pleasantly) alarmed at my Zen-like calm in the face of what would’ve been a calamity a mere couple of weeks ago. Now, I know how things will go. They will be touch and go, I know. I let Petro go. I know she wants me to buy her airtime, for her feet. I know, but I let her go.

With my car being there and me being here, I give my feet a rest on the cold tile floor. They love it. I tile my world with words. Sometimes clean, sometimes broken, sometimes mosaic. Like me now.

I take a bottle of wine home and think of my brand. I’m slightly (and even pleasantly) alarmed to think that I have a brand. Be sure to know that I do not consider myself to be a brand. My brand is UberChuckV and ChuckV is not me. He is that polite, almost obsequious, guy who drives your Uber car. I’m not that guy. You know.

But back to the business of Kempton Park on Sunday and the stupid guy hooking my passenger door with his by opening it wide without looking. That was a problem, but I had passengers aboard and getting my guests to their destination safely is my priority. I also vastly underestimated the cost of panel beating.

The R3500 little bumper rub with the Gautrain bus in Sandton compounded the problem. It was unsightly. Unsightly is bad for my brand. My panel beater assures me my car will look brand new once he is done. So, the problem is no more and the only thing missing is money. My month-end will be a bit of a battle. Kinda touch and go, you know. “Life is a battle and you better be in it. The rest is just the rest,” I tell Petro, who exhorts me to see things from a brand new perspective.

Thus, and I say this with deep regret, to all my longsuffering creditors, you’re back to the back of the queue. I argue, briefly, by email, with Uber and Facebook about my brand. It is now ChuckV. Stay calm and know it.

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Chuckv

September 15th

Uncategorized
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